Seven presbyteries, solo congregation to begin preparing for Vital Congregations Initiative

The seven latest mid councils bring the VC total to 35, more than 20% the PC(USA)’s presbyteries

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
Vital Congregations scholarship application cover

LOUISVILLE — Seven presbyteries and one congregation have been selected to be part of the third wave of the Vital Congregations Initiative in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).  Those invited into the initiative, which is based on the Seven marks of a Vital Congregation, are:

Presbytery of Detroit, Michigan

Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, Georgia

Homestead Presbytery,  Nebraska

John Calvin Presbytery, Southeast Kansas, Southwest Missouri

Peace River Presbytery, Southwest Florida

Presbytery of San Fernando, Northwest region of Los Angeles

Presbytery of Scioto Valley, Central and Southern Ohio

“Digital Presbytery,” Meadowlake Church, Huntersville, North Carolina (Presbytery of Charlotte)

For the first time, individual congregations like Meadowlake could apply to participate in the initiative with the blessing of their presbytery. In honor of that milestone, Vital Congregations Coordinator the Rev. Carlton Johnson opened the envelope containing Meadowlake’s name first.

Vital Congregations Mission Specialist Marla Edwards said the initiative provides an opportunity for all participants to take a fresh look at where each of their congregations are in terms of living into congregational vitality and what that means for them.

Vital Congregations Mission Specialist Marla Edwards

“As I reflect on the interviews we did, each one of the presbyteries and their congregations are in a unique place,” she said. “They each have different challenges and strengths. But all are passionate about, and committed to, the initiative.”

With this week’s announcement, 35 of the PC(USA)’s 171 presbyteries have gone through or are entering the Vital Congregations initiative. Johnson and Edwards believe they are moving at a great pace by using spiritual practices and relational connections to take participants deeper into following Jesus Christ.

“This first year of preparation is very focused on prayer and faith,” Johnson said. “So often we get so busy and don’t take time to pray or exercise our faith. Here is a chance to connect with what God wants for your community of faith and for the good of those around you.”

This is the first time that a wave of presbyteries will be introduced to the initiative with a task-based approach. Initially operating from a time-based approach, participating presbyteries met with those working through the initiative once a year during a three-day in-person national gathering. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, the VC team had to re-think the means of connectivity.

“In light of the pandemic, we quickly realized how much VCI presbyteries needed a more regular touch,” Johnson said.

So, Vital Congregations continues to make adjustments preparing for a post-pandemic world. With this next wave, they’ll connect digitally with those going through the year of preparation every three months. As part of the process, organizers have built in the expectation that pastors will check with their presbytery leaders monthly. Then members of the national team will meet with those leaders to see how they can best support them and their congregations.

The Rev. Carlton Johnson is coordinator for Vital Congregations.

“As we reorient ourselves from the goal of getting more people into church to getting the people already in church to go into their communities where people’s needs are, the goal is transformation,” Johnson said, “for all of us who are walking together through the initiative during these crazy, changing times.”

 The Office of Vital Congregations is part of the PC(USA)’s Theology, Formation and Evangelism ministry. Presbyteries or individual congregations interested in going through the VC initiative can download a basic information packet and application here.

Building congregational vitality is one of three foci of the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 invitation.

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