Presbyterian Church (USA) – PC Moderators Conference (USA) sends Intermediate Council leaders home with practical skills including designing and conducting more focused meetings

Josh Park, Jihyun Oh, Valerie Izumi, and David Gambrell participated in a panel discussion via zoom during the moderators conference this weekend.  Screenshot.

Reverend Josh Park, Reverend Jihyun Oh, Valerie Izumi and Reverend Dr. David Gambrell participated in a panel discussion via zoom during the moderators conference over the weekend. Screenshot.

Saturday’s Moderator Conference presentation on how to help PC (USA) Intermediate Board moderators run more focused meetings garnered input from three people with expert knowledge on their topic:

  • Reverend Josh Park, director of Korean Language Board Support in the General Assembly Officegave the approximately 145 people attending the Presbyterian Center in person and online assistance with practical considerations for hosting hybrid and online gatherings.
  • Valérie Izumi, head of Appointments at the General Assembly in the OGA, discussed from an equity and inclusion lens before and during meetings.
  • The Reverend Dr. David Gambrell, Worship Associate in the Presbyterian Mission Agency Office of Theology and Worshipdiscussed “what really matters to me: thinking theologically about worship and helping [mid councils] think about it too. »
  • Reverend Jihyun Oh, director of Intermediate Council Ministries at the OGA, facilitated the 90-minute workshop.

“I like to rewind the tape so we do it before we get to [mid council] meetings: from an equity and inclusion perspective, ask: “Who is present and who is not?” What prevents elders in power from participating? asked izumi. “How are former leaders and teachers prepared to serve on the intermediate council? Are there accommodation issues that prevent people from serving? The reality is that there is already a place for you. We just need to remove the barriers that keep you from serving.

Gambrell said he has three considerations to help shape the tone of worship for any service he helps design: knowing the purpose of worship, beginning with the Word; follow the Spirit “and surround everything with prayer”; and remember the body. As for the latter, Gambrell noted that “the body” has two meanings: “the whole person, all that we are” and “the whole church, the work of all the people of God.” It is a community activity.

“When it comes to setting the tone, we must remember that technology is a tool and a challenge in how we communicate, listen and connect with those in attendance and those joining online, as well as to those broadcasting their intermediate council meetings,” Park said. “I know it’s more work, but you can’t just prepare the agenda. You have to train with technology and think about those who connect with technology. Having online speakers looking directly into the camera while speaking “is much more engaging,” Park said. “Also be aware that when audio is not heard, it becomes extremely frustrating for internet users.”

“You’ll get better doing it more often,” Park said. Eventually, “the technology disappears and you realize you’re connecting to a larger community through technology.”

Gambrell suggested that intermediate councils consider regularly engaging in “different models of worship,” including services as simple and serious as daily prayer. “They’re simple and short with just a few main ingredients: scriptures, songs, and prayer,” Gambrell said. “They make room for silence, listening and prayer.”

“Silence can create discomfort online,” Oh noted, “but there’s a place for it, too.”

Park recommends that middle councils streamline their technology when it comes to offering online or hybrid meetings, adding a bonus they can reap: “Middle council meetings can be a channel to spread the gospel . It’s an evangelistic tool,” Park said. “Know that the opportunities are great with what God has in store.”

“Making things easy is hard, but can it be learned? I absolutely mean it,” Park said. “God has already given us the talents to move forward into this future.”

Fractures can happen “even when we’re all in the same room,” izumi said. “We leave the job unfinished or we have our 10e dispute of the day with our 5 year old child. Everyone arrives at the same place feeling a little fractured. I like to have gatherings over time to allow that connection to happen.

“In communities of color, when we get together, we spend time checking in,” izumi said. “I think it’s also important in the meetings of the intermediate board.”

Gambrell discussed research around mirror neurons. “If I raise my hands to pray and you pay attention, the neurons fire and react accordingly,” he said. “We are connected through space and through screens.”

“I’m learning the value of using fewer words and more songs,” Gambrell said. Children can learn a short phrase such as “thank God” and participate in hybrid worship, he said.

“The pandemic has forced multi-sensory engagement,” Gambrell said. “It involves collaborative planning and it’s hard work, but we end up with a wonderful organic cult.” Gambrell said he “came to really appreciate the value of hymns as worship technology. Have you ever tried singing a round with PowerPoint? You can do it, but it gets messy. I appreciate these old school gifts.

“We think about advances in technology, but meeting the imagination is about expanding our minds about the importance of technology,” Oh said. “It’s a way to connect with each other and express the mystery of God.”

Intermediate council moderators “also have the opportunity to be ambassadors,” izumi said, suggesting that moderators keep a diary of what happens when they travel to the consistory or synod. “When I call the leaders of the intermediate councils, I discover things that I would not have discovered.”

Since “constant communication is key to a connectional church,” everyone should have basic skills, including knowing how to make a brief video, Park said. “The more you communicate, the more people will contact you.”


Come back with pcusa.org for more reporting on the moderators’ conference, which ended on Saturday.

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