But how to move forward and where to go — those questions remain difficult. “We are not going to control the change we are living through now,” Deborah Rundlett, the general presbyter of Muskingum Valley Presbytery, (mvpjourneyingwithjesus.org/) said of the PC(USA). She also spoke of the idea that death precedes resurrection, and that to make way for something new, sometimes the old must pass away.
Rundlett was helping to lead a day-long conversation on Oct. 6 involving national and regional leaders of the denomination — members of the General Assembly Mission Council and leaders of presbyteries and synods. For the past several years (except for last year, when there wasn’t enough money) these national and regional leaders have met together, trying for honest conversation about the denomination’s problems and possibilities.
To save resources, this meeting was wedged in between the Fall Polity Conference and the annual meeting of the Association of Executive Presbyters, (aeps.org/) — both gatherings that are just ending — and the fall meeting of the General Assembly Mission Council, which runs through Oct. 8.
This year’s discussion was centered in part around worship, and around the ideas presented in Robert E. Quinn’s book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within and in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, which his Web site says “addresses a single question: Can a good company become a great company, and if so, how?”
So that meant discussion of the kenotic path, the idea that “those who participate in change must participate in death,” as it was described in a quote from Goethe projected on the screen, or an emptying to make way for the new.
And there was talk of “discovering our hedgehogs” and “living into our hedgehogs.” To represent that concept, each participant was given a small hedgehog figurine at registration. The hedgehog idea comes from a fable, about the slow, plodding hedgehog who accomplishes more than the sly, cunning, yet distracted fox, Rundlett said.
In this context, passion + gifts + needs of the community = hedgehog, the group was told.
“Our world calls us to be foxes,” Rundlett said. “Our world easily scatters and diffuses us. But our God calls us to be hedgehogs.”
The day’s work also included conversation about change — about the people who welcome it, who tolerate it, who resist it.
At the end, some presbytery executives said they would welcome in the next gathering more specific discussion regarding some of the big concerns facing the PC(USA), including leadership needs and the health and vitality of congregations.