In south Texas, proceeds from departing congregations open doors to shared ministries
November 26, 2018
Mission Presbytery — which includes 134 congregations in the southern fifth of Texas — has a lot in common with your presbytery. We’ve had some congregations merge as a way to seek survival, and others close if no other options seemed available. Also, like you, we’ve lost some congregations to other denominations. We’re convinced, however, that God’s presence among us is not lessened. We believe that God still has plenty to do among the saints in South Texas. So, we as a presbytery are choosing instead to “make lemonade out of our lemons” — or in more theological terms, to practice resurrection.
When congregations vote either to close or to depart, we seek to reinvest the remaining assets as wisely as we can in order to further existing ministries or to give birth to new ones. With one settlement, we decided on a three-pronged approach to using the gift. Initially, some grants were made to our existing committees and commissions, to be used to further their ministries in the ways they saw fit. Provisions were also made to support the presbytery in future times of need. Then we set aside the balance of the settlement in what we call the Better Together Fund.
We found that by taking a small draw each year from the fund, we’ll have about $24,000 to award annually. The catch? The money will be awarded to two or more member congregations in the presbytery to support new, shared ministry initiatives. We do this not because churches have left, but because we are better together.
We also held a presbytery meeting Oct. 26—27: “Mission in Mission in Mission! (M3).” Mission Presbytery met in Mission, Texas —at the southern tip of the state—to do mission together.
Everyone was invited — commissioners, guests, mission committees, seminarians, you name it. We planned to arrive earlier than usual. Then on Friday, Oct. 26, we dropped the gavel to open the meeting at 9 a.m., only to disperse immediately to one of 15–20 predetermined sites.
People can choose between working in food pantries, sorting coats at a coat closet, touring immigrant support facilities, serving lunch to clients of an outreach ministry, and more. Plus, there were activities for those with limited mobility at First Presbyterian Church in Mission, Texas, including a visit with two of our missionaries. And there were T-shirts for all as we “invaded” the Rio Grande Valley!
These are examples of what can happen with limited dollars and unlimited creativity to connect a presbytery and its congregations in doing God’s mission together. With God’s blessing, the example of Jesus and the nudging of the Holy Spirit, there’s always enough lemonade to go around.
Rev. Sallie Watson, General Presbyter of Mission Presbytery in San Antonio, Texas
Today’s Focus: Congregations
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, we pray for your pastors and churches and for all who suffer. Send your Holy Spirit to lift them and to replenish them for the work ahead. Amen.