June 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

I am a deacon-elect.

The congregation also elected the first elder under the age of 18 in our 310 year history.
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Installation is scheduled for June 29.

Youth Elder … that was interesting

January 20, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion, Youth 

Today, the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville (NJ) held it’s Annual Corporation Meeting and the Special Congregational Meeting.  This church holds the annual corporate and congregational meetings at different times and the special meeting in January is normally to approve the terms of call for the pastors and fill any open partial officer terms.

During the Congregational meeting, a change to the bylaws was proposed.  The number of elders has previously been set at exactly 15, in 3 even classes.  This change was to allow a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 16 elders in nearly equal classes.

The intention of the change was to allow for the first-time election of a youth (under 18 in this case) to the Session.

This was originally brought up back in the fall when the Session and Youth and Young Adult council members talked about it (not the entire group – there is some overlap).  The original plan was to create the post of Youth Elder.  I did some research on their behalf (since I know a lot about all of this through past personal history and interest) and pointed out that under the Book of Order, there cannot be a position restricted/intended for a certain group.  Instead I recommended that they increase the number of seats available and allow for flexibility in the classes.

I knew we were in trouble when the sanctuary was packed for a congregational meeting week worship service.  Most of the folks were older.  After the service there was a Benediction but no Choral Response or Postlude.  Folks were asked to remain.  Usually about 1/3 of the folks who attended the service will stay for the congregational meeting.  Today almost everybody stayed.

The bylaw amendment was the last item on the agenda of both meetings.  At the beginning of the corporation meeting (which was first) the pastor recognized the confirmation class that was attending the meeting as part of their education.  He asked them to stand up.  Some stood up.  Others did not, and a few were in the balcony and not visible.  The pastor made a statement about some of them being present.

The bylaw amendment was presented by the nominating committee chair.  It was presented as allowing us to have a youth elder, who would be a rising senior [elected in June – someone who would be a senior in the fall] who would serve one year of a 3-year term.  If the student remained in the area for college he/she would be able to finish the full term.  If not the student would resign just like anyone else who was unable to finish their term and we would likely elect another student to replace them.  This youth elder would not be expected to chair a committee (as the other elders are) and would be paired with another elder to serve as a mentor.

The first speaker from the floor asked why we needed an additional seat, and stated that perhaps the nominating committee should have been choosing a youth for Session all along.  The answer given was that since we would not expect a youth to be a committee chair, we couldn’t afford to give up an adult seat – we needed all 15 to chair committees.
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It was also pointed out that under the Book of Order there is no such thing as a youth elder.  I was recognized at one point and read from G-14 where the BOO requires that the congregation elect officers from all ages, racial-ethnic background, disabilities, etc.

The controversy was expressed as a question of why an additional seat was required for most of the 15 minute discussion until one elderly member got up and gave her opinion.  She stated that if the Session required the advice of a youth they could simply ask one to come to a meeting, and that elders should be people who have been involved with the church for a long time, have experience with the church, and are more mature.  At least 7 or 8 people raised their hands to answer that discriminatory attitude.

A few speakers later, the chair called the question (with support from others).  In a voice vote the motion to change the bylaws passed.  My estimate is that it was about 66-34 or maybe 60-40.  The chair ruled that the motion passed and noone called for division.  The meeting was ended with prayer.

After the meeting the woman who was the first speaker was heard to say “we’re voting on a youth elder and they aren’t even HERE!”  I think the pastor did the youth a disservice by actually saying that only a few were there.  I think that the youth (older than confirmation age) did themselves a disservice by failing to attend worship and this meeting.

One woman who I spoke to after the meeting said that she thought that the argument over 15 vs. 16 seats was really code for whether or not to have a youth elder and particularly for whether or not to change anything.

Even worse, this meeting shows a split in the congregation that my work on Project Open Door has hinted at.  There is a core of the congregation for whom you are a new member until you’ve been there 5 years or more.  They are also opposed to change of any type.  There is an old/young split, and a new/long-time split.  I fear for what this means when the Project Open Door team is expected to fulfill our mandate by suggesting changes to the visitor and community ministries of the church.

I’m glad that the vote went in favor of the youth, but also disturbed at the anti-youth sentiment shown by the debate.  It seems nothing has changed in some congregations in the last 20 years.

So what’s up?

January 18, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Religion, Sports, Work, Youth 

So what’s going on, Mark?

I’m glad you asked.

This week has been eventful.

Earlier in the week, we got the news that the company is looking into some form of ownership change for all or part of the company.  I’ve already written about that.

Today we actually got good news.  IT has gotten permission to give an allowance to IT employees who are required to be on-call for support issues.  The department will pay up to $75 of our home broadband Internet and cell phone charges.  For me that means $40 for Internet access.  My cell phone usage for work is minimal and always within my plan.

At church I got the Project Open Door meeting scheduled for next week – we’ll be going over inactive members and how to interview them gently.  I had a good Sr. High youth evening last Sunday and a great Youth and Young Adult council meeting on Tuesday.  The YAYA council actually reduced the amount of logistical stuff that we go over to focus on the substance and theology of our program.  We’re going to be more intentional about linking our activities to our theology in the future.
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Hockey – there are 3 games this weekend.  I’m going to tonight’s game with Carolyn, and tomorrow night’s game with Carolyn, my sister and a friend of hers.  Sunday’s game will get skipped – 3 in a weekend is too much.

Ham Radio – I got voted in as a member of the Delaware Valley Radio Association last week. Last weekend I went to their radio “shack” and got an orientation on the building, antennas, and radios.  I’m also nearly finished with the ARRL EC-001 Level 1 Amateur Radio Emergency Communication online class.  That class will teach me how to be useful in an emergency (like a flood, hurricane, or other disaster).  The class is going really well – my mentor told me that I’m the first student out of the 100 or so that he’s worked with who managed to format all 4 sample emergency messages correctly on the first try.

In the Presbyterian world, things have been busy.  We’ve had a presbytery approve a lesbian candidate as ready to receive a call to ministry, we got a young adult candidate for General Assembly Moderator (for the non-presby’s, that means roughly “head Presbyterian”).  These actions (particularly the first one) have prompted the expected reaction from the conservative wing of the church.  Our General Assembly this June will also be considering a complete re-write of the Rules portion of our constitution.

At my own church we have a congregational meeting this Sunday that will consider a change to the bylaws to loosen up the rules on the number of Elders and their term length.  This is intended to allow the church to ordain it’s first Elder under age 18 for a term shorter than 3 years (because the youth probably couldn’t serve a full 3 years).

Life is a roller coaster, but in retrospect it’s been more up than down this week.

Elder Statesman

October 13, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

My father just told me that he’s going to be nominated to be an Elder at his church this coming Sunday.

This is not a surprise.  He and my mother were both ordained as deacons at the same time, with me laying hands on both of them (I had been ordained the year before).  Now that he is retired he’s looking for something to do and asked his pastor to fill that need.
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Of course, when I told Carolyn that Dad was going to be an elder, she said, “But he already is!”