Moderator Candidate Meet and Greet – How did it go?

April 29, 2008 by
Filed under: Religion 

It went very well.


On Friday, April 25, 2008 fifty-eight Presbyterians (and one Catholic) descended on the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville (NJ) in order to meet and hear from all four candidates for Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  They came from as far away as New York City, Philadelphia, and Delaware.

The evening started when the candidates arrived before the event.  At their request we gave them a private room in which to eat dinner and generally get to chat – this is apparently the first time that all four of them were able to meet privately.

A little after 7 we introduced all members of the Central Jersey Moderator Candidate Host Committee – a group that was put together to hold this event.  We also sang “Happy Birthday” to Rich Richards, as it was the right day.  (Apologies to Andy James – it was also his birthday but we didn’t know it at the time.)

Then we introduced all four candidates and were led in prayer by Rev. Jeff Vamos – the pastor of the Lawrenceville church and a commissioner from the Presbytery of New Brunswick.

After the prayer, and at the suggestion of a commissioner, we had each commissioner, alternate or advisory delegate quickly stand and give their name and presbytery/seminary.   Then each candidate was given up to 5 minutes to make an opening statement from the lectern.  The order of introduction and statement was determined randomly earlier in the week by my Catholic co-worker (who could care less who is elected Moderator :-).

Bruce Reyes-Chow

First up was Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, of the Presbytery of San Francisco.  Bruce’s address concentrated on his experiences in his unusual home church and how it reaches out to those who have not felt an affinity for “traditional” churches.  He asked the difficult question of whether or not we are willing to work to make the church a place that young people will feel welcome – “Do we really want young people in the church?”

Bill Teng

Then Rev. Bill Teng of National Capital Presbytery spoke.  Bill’s address spoke of how he is a product of PC(USA) mission through his great-grandfather, who was one of the first Presbyterian elders in China.  This has created a sense of call to express gratitude towards those who worked with his ancestors.  He also spoke of the importance of the basic goals of the church – mission and evangelism.

Roger Shoemaker

Then Elder Roger Shoemaker of Homestead Presbytery followed.  Roger’s address spoke of the need to enrich the roots of the church rather than spending time chopping branches off the top of the structure.  He believes that an increased focus on local congregations will help stem the loss of membership.

Carl Mazza

And last Rev. Carl Mazza of New Castle Presbytery completed the opening remarks.  Carl spoke of his years of mission work through Meeting Ground, and of a new definition of the church that isn’t bound by 4 walls.  He told a story of a woman who experienced the love of God and connection to others while washing dishes at Meeting Ground’s shelter.

The seating area of the room was laid out in 4 U-shaped “pods”.  After the opening remarks, we had the candidates each take a pod.  Every 15 minutes we rotated the candidates so that all pods got a chance to speak to all candidates.  The folks at the tables came up with the questions.

Pod 1

Pod 2

The questions in the pods covered a variety of subjects, and centered on the big questions.  I was busy keeping things going, so I was unable to hear many of the questions, but others have told me some of what was asked.  A topic mentioned by many is the problem/question of keeping young people involved in the church after confirmation or high school.  As always, homosexuality was talked about – one pod asked a question about it of each candidate and the responses covered all parts of the spectrum.  There were many questions and answers about how we can work together while disagreeing – about how we can stay together.  The Form of Government rewrite and the Belhar Confession were covered.  All of the discussion was earnest, open, honest, and respectful.  Laughter was heard at all tables from time to time.  (If you are looking for specifics of the candidate’s position, I invite you to go to their websites (linked above under the pictures) and ask them directly.  All have encouraged such conversation.)

After the Q&A time was completed, we had time for 20-25 minutes of unstructured mingling.  I invited those who still had questions to “find … hunt for … stalk their favorite candidate” to get to hear their answer.

We ended the evening with a prayer led by Rev. Jon Seitz, in a circle of joined hands.  After that people continued to talk and arrange other times to talk.

One very important aspect of the evening was the connection of the commissioners, advisory delegates, and other Presbyterians with each other.  Friendships were renewed and made and many people who knew each other only as an e-mail address, blog or Facebook friend were able to meet in person.

The host committee would like to again thank the session, deacons and staff of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville for lending us the building and equipment and helping us find what we needed.  Jeff Vamos was also indispensable in the planning and execution of the evening, as well as providing some discretionary financing.

Central Jersey Moderator Candidate Host Committee

  • Mark Smith, Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville
  • Carolyn Smith, St. Gregory the Great R. C. Church, Hamilton, NJ
  • Sara Ferguson, Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville
  • Laura Ferguson, Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville
  • Bob Smith, Presbyterian Church of Toms River (NJ)
  • Ellen Smith, Presbyterian Church of Toms River
  • Rev. Jon Seitz, parish associate at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Trenton, NJ
  • Rev. Neal Presa, pastor of Middlesex Presbyterian Church (NJ)
  • Rich Richards, youth director, Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville
  • Grier Booker-Richards, Princeton Seminary student and intern at Lawrenceville
  • Peter Billings, Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville

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6 Comments on Moderator Candidate Meet and Greet – How did it go?

  1. Quotidian Grace on Tue, 29th Apr 2008 6:27 pm
  2. Great report, Mark. Thanks. Wish we had thought of this and gotten our act together down here to host a gathering like this!

  3. Steve on Tue, 29th Apr 2008 11:41 pm
  4. Mark – Thanks for the great wrap-up and the pictures of the event. The “pods” idea is a good one and it sounded like it worked out very well.

    Sorry to put you on the spot and hurry up the report on the event before you had time to do it justice. It sounded like it was going to be the great event that it was that I was wondering all weekend how it went. Thanks for all your leadership in putting it together.

  5. on Wed, 30th Apr 2008 9:30 am
  6. Mark Time: Moderator Candidate Meet and Greet – How did it go?

    All 4 candidates for moderator gathered with a number of other Presbyterians at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, NJ on April 25, 2008.

    A good time was had by all.

  7. Peter Billings on Wed, 30th Apr 2008 11:57 am
  8. Mark, thanks for the credit, but I hardly think the photos (that I’ve seen) are worth it! It seems like they came out rather blurry. I hope that isn’t true for all of them!

  9. Oh, boy - part 2 : Mark Time on Tue, 20th Jan 2009 2:39 pm
  10. […] I have received a note from the Central Jersey Deacon Candidate Host Committee about an event …. just kidding!  (If you don’t get the joke, click here.) […]

  11. Picking up the pieces … : Mark Time on Tue, 17th Feb 2009 10:13 am
  12. […] even likely to be a problem.  On the other side of the coin, there have been several recent events where things went well, even VERY well, and I had a big part in pulling them off (very big for one, […]

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