Friends, the Annual Meeting of both the Congregation and Corporation of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is coming up: not this week, but on Sunday, January 30.

We will have a combined worship service at 10 a.m. in the Sanctuary that day, with elements of both contemporary and traditional styles of worship in the service. The Annual Meeting will begin a few moments after the conclusion of the worship service. You may participate in the Annual Meeting either by in-person attendance or by Zoom; information about Zoom participation will be in the newsletter next week.

As usual, at this meeting we will hear reports from the Session, the Board of Trustees, the Board of Deacons, and the Joint Finance Committee, and there will be opportunity to ask questions. But perhaps the most important thing we will do is consider the report from the Congregational Nominating Committee about whom they have discerned is called to ministry with and to and among us as the members of First Presbyterian Church.

Presbyterians hold the right of the people to discern and elect their own leaders to be sacrosanct. While almost everything in the life of a Presbyterian congregation is ultimately under the authority of Session, the leadership of the church is chosen directly by the congregation.

You, as the congregation, elect the Nominating Committee, and then it is their job to go out and look for those within the congregation who have the gifts, skills, vision, passion, and faith to fulfill the office(s) in question, and at this particular time in the life of our congregation. Typically, they begin their work in the early fall, which includes both their own internal conversation about potential candidates and your suggestions that come in through the written nomination process that we do every fall. After a number of conversations, they begin establishing a list of those whom they think are best to ask, and then go out and ask them if they would consider serving.

Not everyone who is asked to serve agrees with the Nominating Committee’s assessment of their call to service! But that is both fine and to be expected. In the Presbyterian Church, we understand a calling to have three elements: 1) the providential call: the gifts and skills to do the work involved; 2) the personal call: the individual having a sense that they are called by God to use those providential gifts in a particular ministry; and 3) the congregational call: the church itself recognizing those gifts and issuing the call to the individual. If any one of those three elements is missing, for any office, then it is not a true call, at least for that moment.

Attached to this newsletter is a list of people that this year’s Congregational Nominating committee is bringing for your consideration and potential election to serve as Elders, Deacons, Trustees, and members of the following year’s Congregational Nominating Committee. Please take a moment to review those carefully, to consider them, and pray over them and our nomination process.

They will be presented during the annual meeting with an opportunity, as always, for discussion and nominations from the floor (again, the will of the people in such elections is sacrosanct, and the people may feel that the Nominating Committee missed something!). I look forward to being with you in the meeting on January 30, and to us taking up this crucial and sacred responsibility in the life of the church.

Grace and Peace,