A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: CALLING OUR LEADERSHIP
Friends, the Annual Meeting of the Congregation and Corporation of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is coming up on Sunday, January 31, at 11 a.m. via Zoom.
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 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.
As you may recall me saying a few weeks ago when we gathered to consider extending a call to the Rev. Lindsey Clifton as our new Associate Pastor and then later in the sermon that day, Presbyterians hold the right of the people to discern and elect their own leaders to be sacrosanct. That is why the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee reported directly to you as the congregation, rather than through the Session.
The Congregational Nominating Committee operates the same way, and for the same reasons, every year. You, as the congregation, elect the Nominating Committee (just as you elected a special nominating committee for the Associate Pastor), and then it is the Nominating Committee’s job to go out and look for those within the congregation who have the gifts, skills, vision, and passion 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 agrees with the Nominating Committee’s assessment! 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 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.
Here is the list of nominees 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 31 (one week from Sunday), and to us taking up this crucial and sacred responsibility in the life of the church.
Grace and peace,
To join us via Zoom: bit.ly/392Brx6
To join via phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 955 325 387 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
10 a.m.: Combined Worship Service via Facebook Live (Zoom link is for phone only)
11 a.m.: Annual Meeting of the Congregation and Corporation via Zoom
12 p.m.: Hospitality Time via Zoom