One Presbytery, six Zones… or was that 70 placements, umpteen clusters, six mini-Presbyteries, a mini-Synod, a maxi-Synod, an Assembly, and no room for any partridges…

by Presbytery Minister Graham Perry, lit. ‘one who has fallen out of the pear-tree

SCCP FAQs:        Why do we form a new Presbytery and then split it up into zones? Der! Isn’t that just going to add another layer of meetings and reports? Who’s going to do all that extra work?

Well, not me, that’s for sure. And not the Standing Committee either – they are already overworked. Likewise the PRC. Business Committee, not so much…

Some of the answers are obvious, at least to some of the people – who then raise other questions. That’s OK, good questions are the best way to develop a new Presbytery that will meet our churches’ needs and aims: to encourage and enable each other to be proactive, effective, missional, cooperative, outward-focused, indeed Uniting with one another for the common good.

Before Kuring-gai and Sydney North Presbytery’s Marriage Made In Synod, each was already working in zones at one level, mainly ministerial. We could see from the outset that the only way to be really effective was to tackle the work in bite-sized chunks. If every issue concerning our 70-odd congregations or ministry personnel, every question of mission opportunity or crisis, was sent to the SC or PRC, for example, the dozen or so members of those committees would be in permanent session. On the other extreme, individual congregations often struggle alone with an issue for which they lack the key resource, which might be found just one or two churches down the highway.

So the key reason for forming Zones is to share the (exciting, gospel, kingdom!) work of being the church with our neighbours in mission. Local knowledge is the best for local needs. Each zone, or cluster of neighbouring churches, will identify leaders with the specific gifts for each issue, who might be able to help out with one project then step back, rather than being elected to Standing Committee for the term of their natural lives, or driving across Sydney in peak hour to serve a distant congregation with little knowledge of local nuances. Who will do the extra work? By engaging more workers, the work is spread more thinly, to everyone’s benefit.

Similarly, local groups of ministers (clergy, pastors, chaplains, lay leaders) gathering regularly can both support and resource each other, but also spot the needs and opportunities more readily. Professional obligations can be shared accountably – Ethical Ministry workshops set up locally, mini-seminars to share ‘What I Learned on Study Leave,’ resources like ‘Who Has the Best Christmas Play?’ or ‘How to Share Your Faith While Saving the World’ could no doubt be of benefit to the whole membership.

Q: a. Another layer? b. More paperwork?
A: a. No; and b. Maybe, but not very much really.
It is important to note that Zones have no real existence in the Regulations of the church, only in Presbytery policy and procedures. SC and the Presbytery Council still have the (shared) authority of oversight over ministry, congregational mission and property transactions. But if a Zone works through its local issues thoroughly, why would the supervisory committee object or overrule? Communications will be essential so all relevant knowledge is shared and good decisions made. Someone in the Zone will need to do some coordinating and secretarial work (which could be paid!) Administration is a gift, apparently (1 Cor 12:28, ‘helps’ or ‘assistance’.) The more effective our Ad-ministry, the better our Ministry.

Each Zone has been asked to meet, including lay and ordained leaders, to consider some draft policies for the ways Zones will work in Sydney Central Coast Presbytery. (Don’t know when? ask your minister.) The full Presbytery will consider and adopt the amended Policies on October 26 (at Gosford – stay tuned). I am resourcing those meetings and your feedback (including questions) will help shape the final form of the Policies to go to Presbytery as your Policies for sharing locally the work of the whole region, for the wellbeing of Jesus’ Church and the glory of God.

Get a copy of the Zones Policy Proposals here. Please email helpful suggestions to me.

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