Friday, January 9, 2009

Session ... spiritual leaders ?? We don't do that here !

SPC has had the same pastor for a while, Bob Purring*. He's the reason my wife and I first started attending SPC. He preaches the Word with passion. I'm not saying that he doesn't have his flaws, no pastor is perfect, but he tries. He peppers his sermons with humor, local references, an example using his wife (I sent him this video), but brings it all together at the end. I kinda wish he'd make the sermons more cerebral, but I suspect he got flak from someone about being "preachy" when he did.

Anyway, Bob does what most pastors do, in his office in the mornings, does lunch, then does shut-in visits. He also does a lot of funerals, most of them not members of the church. In fact, he's usually the first pastor called when a funeral home gets a request from a family for some sort of religious send off. We've actually gotten a few new members after Bob performed the funeral, as he does have empathy for the family.

The reason he does all these funerals is that the Session, years before, gave him the permission to do these as a means of additional income. I'll come back to this later.

Our Session consists of fifteen Elders, which for a church of this size is too large. When I arrived it was eighteen!! It was proposed that we reduce the size of the Session to twelve, but the argument was made "Who will do all the work?", when I replied "Members of the congregation", half the Session gave me looks like they thought I was crazy, the other half as if they knew I was. We compromised on fifteen, even with a reduction of three, we are still having problems getting members to serve on Session, which is the reason the original number twelve was proposed.

As I've mentioned in a previous blog entry, most of the Elders believe that serving on Session means that they're on the board of directors. Actual contact with members of the congregation is done by the Pastor, not the Elders, or didn't I know that? Most Elders when asked about opening a meeting with a prayer, will say nothing, expecting the Moderator (Pastor) to pray for them. And forget about actually leading a bible study.

Trying to enact change in a church where most of Session have been members for years is very hard. "This has been my family's church for over 20 years ...", is a phrase most often heard. Mike McCarty at Around the Scuttlebutt has an entry that gives a good example about what I'm talking about.

Here's an example: We've been trying to add contemporary worship tunes to our worship. In the summer, we'd begin early with ten minutes of contemporary worship before the normal summer worship time, we'd get a nice group of newer members (less than 10 year members), after the contemporary time, in would walk the older members, which would include about 75% of the Session (great support, huh). This past summer, we realized that we needed a keyboard for the service, the Worship & Music Elder at that time, who supported our ideas, OK'd the purchase.

We got a nice keyboard, and it sounds great, much better than the upright piano they've had in the sanctuary for years, and which never holds tune as the temperature fluctuates so badly in there. (A/C ... costs too much, no matter that even on Summer hours, we bake!!) The keyboard can sound like a grand piano and fills the sanctuary, unlike the upright which you could barely hear in the back. So the music director doesn't use the upright any longer. He moved the upright out of the sanctuary because it just took up space, and the fit hit the shan.

"You can't move that out of the sanctuary!" "It's been there since I've been a member." "It's a nice piece of furniture!!" Actually, the wood's been veneered! So, the piano is back, but it's not used for anything. It sits in the front of the sanctuary, used as a stand for candles; but it's back where it belongs !!

But I've veered off a bit, as I mentioned in a previous blog post here we did the review of the Pastor's call last month. Bob is getting the Presbytery recommended increase this year. This has not been the case in past years, as there has been years where pledges would not cover all requested ministry budgets, and thus where do you cut? Normally, you would think the ministry budgets; not here, you just don't give the pastor and/or staff any raises that year.

OK .. in my humble opinion (IMHO), the only ministry that really can't get cut is Buildings and Grounds, as much of that budget is needed to keep the lights and heat on. Everything else is fair game. I remember reading somewhere that the church should pay its pastor so that the pastor can worry about the spiritual welfare of the congregation, and not the physical welfare of his or her own family.

Which leads to why Bob is the go to pastor for the local mortuaries. In order for him to increase his income, the Session in years past authorized him to work outside of the church, instead of granting a raise.

OK ... I heard that jaw hit the desk, close your mouth, and if you hadn't read my previous rant, er post, check out that link to that post above. Next post ... "Deacon's don't do that ... "

And so it goes ....


  1. Oh, yeah. Our 1875 building (our fourth) gets so hot that we move summer services to the 1993 fellowship hall which is air conditioned.

    When we needed room for a praise band, we removed the always vacant front right pew. The cardiac care units in the area were licking their chops until we agreed to put the old pew in the narthex.

    Same for the request to cut off a low hanging limb in the parking lot. "Did you clear it with the donor's family?" [No, we just cut it off, on the theory that it is easier to get forgiveness than to get permission.]

    Amazing how stuff and "turf" get in the way of ministry.

  2. I was not surprised at the apoplexy about the pew, but the trimming of a tree limb ... good grief !!

    Do they need permission to cut the grass since Uncle Bob donated the sod ??


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