Connectional mission reaps benefits all around the table
October 20, 2018
One of the marks of Presbyterianism is that we are a “connectional” church — that is, our congregations are connected through presbyteries that are connected to synods and to our General Assembly. In some profound ways, our “being connectional” is a way of practicing “being church” — sharing our gifts, talents and resources as well as our sorrows and pain.
Connectional mission can further our practice of being the church within our own presbyteries, across our denomination and within the broader ecumenical family. But if we focus for a few moments on our congregations, presbyteries, synods and General Assembly, we can see many benefits of doing mission in a connectional way. My own ministry in the Caribbean region, where I serve as a mission co-worker, is built on and seeks to strengthen PC(USA) connectionisms. Let me give one example from our mission partnership in Cuba.
There are 90-some partnerships between PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries with the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba. Some are presbytery-to-presbytery partnerships and some are congregational. Several of these are more than 25 years old. There is a depth to the relationships that is hard to find in many places. Just imagine: Two or three generations of American and Cuban Presbyterians have worshiped together, served together and become friends. This is no small thing: to develop and nurture Christian ties that bind us together over time and across cultural and language barriers, across walls of hostility between our two governments.
On the PC(USA) side, presbytery partnerships offer unique opportunities for working together within our own presbyteries, for building relationships as we learn and work together toward common goals and commitments. We can make space for members of smaller churches to participate in a larger mission engagement. We can do presbytery-wide youth activities, cultural events, Bible studies and many other activities that are related to the partnership. Such common mission focus can build unity and friendships within our own church, and in these fractured days in which we live, that is a worthy goal.
An additional benefit of presbytery partnerships for the U.S. church is that they enable us to experience a broader context in Cuba — the breadth of an entire Cuban presbytery — and thereby deepen our understanding of the joys and challenges of the Cuban church and people. The covenants used to guide the presbytery partnerships provide continuity that can survive changes in presbytery or pastoral leadership in either church.
Several presbytery partnerships have developed congregation-to-congregation partnerships. This has enabled participating congregations to “go deep” in one community while retaining a helpful framework for communication, activities, and sharing of ideas for prayer and worship in our home congregations.
There are also many congregational partnerships unrelated to a specific PC(USA) presbytery. Even here, our Presbyterian DNA for connectionism shows itself! First Presbyterian Church of New York City, Highland Presbyterian Church of Maryville, Tennessee, and First & Franklin Presbyterian Church of Baltimore share a common partner in the Presbyterian-Reformed congregation of Taguasco, Cuba.
At another level of connectionisms, the Cuba Partners Network (CPN) connects all PC(USA) congregations, presbyteries and synods with each other, with our denominational World Mission experience, programs and resources, and with the national Synod of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba. Begun in 2001, CPN is one of the oldest of the PC(USA)’s mission networks. For Presbyterians across the denomination, the annual meeting provides face-to-face encounters with each other and with Cuban church leaders. CPN members work together to avoid duplication of efforts; to facilitate communication with the Cuban church, with World Mission and each other; to provide a central source of resources related to Cuba and the partnerships; to call attention to the joys and concerns of partners for prayers; and to work in advocacy on behalf of the Cuban church and people. They also have helped to fund mission co- workers to serve in Cuba. These collaborative efforts enable us to go further and do more than is possible for any one partnership in mission to accomplish.
Rev. Dr. Jo Ella Holman, World Mission Regional Liaison, Caribbean, since 2010
Today’s Focus: Connectional Mission
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
O Lord our God, you are always inviting us to change, to grow, to go down a new path. We crave stability, and yet you push us beyond our comfort zones into the places you have planned for us. Grant us strength and courage. In your holy name we pray. Amen.