Presbyterian agencies work to extend a hand to mid councils

Mid council committee chair, himself a synod leader, says he’s grateful

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service
Warren Lesane

Warren Lesane, Jr. is executive and stated clerk for the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — During a committee meeting of last week’s three-day gathering of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, Warren Lesane, vice chair of the PMAB and chair of the Committee on Mid Councils, asked committee members to introduce themselves in a unique way. Lesane said, “Give us your name, the name of your presbytery and tell us what your presbytery is doing to address the issue of poverty.”  Eradicating systemic poverty is one of the three goals of the Matthew 25 Invitation.

Committee members readily replied to Lesane. Presbyteries across the country are engaging in efforts, including working with the Michigan state coalition for the Poor People’s Campaign, supporting migrant workers by providing meals, working in partnership with the Trenton (N.J.) Area Soup Kitchen, supporting hunger action enablers, and working in partnership with local Methodist churches in their ongoing efforts to address the issue. In other presbyteries, congregations take an offering to ensure the work goes on.

Including efforts in rural Georgia and major metropolitan cities like Atlanta, presbyteries are actively addressing the issue of poverty in a variety of ways. Presbytery of New Hope is taking an innovative approach to the work.  Recently the presbytery walked with a church as it dissolved while transforming its facility into affordable housing units.

It’s not only presbyteries that are engaged in this effort. Lesane said the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic, where he is executive and stated clerk, is providing grants to presbyteries within the synod — up to $50,000 per year to help congregations with this work.

The committee then was informed of ongoing efforts of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to build closer relationships with mid councils. “We go in with a thank you,” said Rosemary Mitchell, senior director for Mission Engagement and Support for the PMA. “Mission Engagement has used natural gathering places to raise questions and address the needs of mid councils.”

Tricia Dykers Koenig, the OGA’s associate director for Mid Council Relations, informed the committee of training opportunities OGA offers for stated clerks and presbytery executives and the onboarding efforts for new mid council leaders. In addition to existing opportunities like presbytery leadership formation, Dykers Koenig informed the group of a new initiative she is currently working on. “We’re developing an online platform for new mid council leaders to meet and to get support and training with their work,” she said.

Committee members were also informed of communications workshops offered by the communications ministry of the PMA. PMA communications staff conduct a free daylong workshop onsite for presbyteries. The workshop teaches congregations how to develop a strategic communications plan and improve media relations along with tips and techniques for enhancing a congregation’s social media and website development.

“I am impressed that the PMAB and the Committee on the General Assembly are engaged in addressing mid council needs,” said Lesane. “Mid councils get tired of being surveyed and there’s no follow-up.”

The committee concluded its meeting with developing a team with representatives from OGA, PMAB and the A Corporation to plan a consultation in concert with mid councils in order that mid councils have input and their voices are heard.


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