When I was a child, we sang a sweet song:
The more we get together, together, together
The more we get together, the happier we’ll be
‘Cause your friends are my friends
And my friends are your friends.
The more we get together,
The happier we’ll be.
In our “zooming” from one meeting to another, getting together has taken on new meaning. Yet, Presbyterians are a resilient people and we did “get together” on October 17, 2020. The 106th stated meeting of the Presbytery of the James was to have been at Orange Church where they are celebrating their 175th anniversary. They have invited us to come “in person” to a future meeting.
Ruling Elder Leigh Anne Ring (Salisbury), moderator, called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m. and led the presbytery in prayer. She also welcomed first-time ruling elder commissioners and guests.
Some of the highlights of the meeting included:
Rev. Karen Witt (Providence Gum Spring), moderator of the Committee on Ministry’s subcommittee on Examinations, welcomed new ministers to the presbytery:
- Rev. Joseph Taber (Western North Carolina) to serve as pastor of Culpeper Church, Culpeper;
- Rev. Kate Fiedler (New Hope) to serve as associate pastor of Second Church, Richmond;
- Rev. Nancy Strapp (Mid-Kentucky) as honorably retired;
- Rev. Frances Taylor Gench (National Capital), in validated ministry at Union Presbyterian Seminary; and
- Rev. Roger Gench (National Capital) as honorably retired.
Morning worship was led by members of the Youth Council of the POJ. They are: Jessica Davis, Dillion Ford, and Paige Ford (Brandermill); Hannah Reasor (Fairfield); Katie Fiddler, Barbara Nance, and Bailey Nance (Fredericksburg); Celedonia Brown, Anna Mauritsen, and Laura Mauritsen (Ginter Park); Adam Morgan (Westminster Richmond); and Susan Pilc (St. Paul's Episcopal). Special thanks to Colleen Earp, associate for youth ministry, whose gifts in helping develop youth leaders is a blessing.
The sermon was delivered by Rev. Roger Gench, resident theologian at Second Church, Richmond. The necrology of deceased ruling elders and a minister of the Word and Sacrament was read. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered by Rev. Patrick Dennis (Tuckahoe) and celebrated by each participant in their home or alternate location.
The agenda was approved. Rev. Fred Holbrook, stated clerk, reminded commissioners to review the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic report from commissioner Rev. Walter Canter and to find the reports of the General Assembly commissioners on the POJ website.
The stated clerk announced a called meeting of the POJ on November 21, 2020 for the purpose of participating in a process led by the Dismantling Racism Ministry; receiving a report from the Committee on Nominations; examining a candidate for ministry and commissioning a commissioned pastor; and receiving as a first reading the report from the POJ Strategic Planning Team.
November 21, 2020
Called meeting, online via Zoom
February 20, 2021
107th Stated Meeting
Hosted by Second (Richmond)
The business of the day included:
- Approved the consent agenda including the balancing of commissioners for 2021.
- Approved including in the 2021-2025 annual budgets the Southwood Project of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville ($43,000 annually). This model of replacing mobile homes with condominium units is a “first” in the nation and a remarkable way to provide accessible and affordable housing (see a 4-minute video about the Southwood Trailer Park Redevelopment.
- Received as a first reading the budget for 2021.
- Ratified two actions taken by the Trustees (e.g., the Inspire Gifts and the Patty Withrow Estate given to Camp Hanover) upon discovery that the POJ is the only entity that can approve major financial requests or distributions.
- During the Mission and Service Team report, received an invitation from Dismantling Racism, heard from mission co-workers Cindy Corell (Haiti) and Ruth Brown (Ghana), and was led in prayer by Rev. Lindsey Williams (The PC Fredericksburg).
- Received a report from the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, Ruling Elder Linda Coye (St. Andrews), moderator.
- Approved a number of nominees to POJ leadership from Teaching Elder Denise Hall, honorably retired member and moderator of the Committee on Nominations. Included was the election of Rev. Patrick Dennis to serve as POJ moderator for 2021 and Ruling Elder Dan Jordanger (Providence Gum Spring) to serve as POJ vice-moderator for 2021.
- Received the Leadership Connection Team report from Rev. George Whipple, honorably retired member.
- Received the Strategic Planning Team report from Rev. Patrick Dennis, vice-moderator.
- Viewed a video from Camp Hanover’s Executive Director Doug Walters including the “Great Camp Give” where the goal of $30,000 has been eclipsed by a total of $116,000 to date!!
- Granted honorably retired status to Rev. George Whipple effective September 30, 2020 (a tribute was presented by Ruling Elder Nancy Echols of Hawkins Memorial Church) and to Rev. James Goodloe IV effective December 31, 2020 (a ruling elder will speak on his behalf at the February meeting).
- Examined and approved for ordination candidates Nancy Coleman (Presbytery of East Tennessee; interim pastor, Providence Forge Church); Sam Shields (Flint River Presbytery, 2nd year chaplaincy resident at UVA Health System); and Nate Taylor (Presbytery of Southern New England; associate pastor for youth and families, Salisbury Church).
With the business of the meeting having been completed, Moderator Ring exclaimed, “We did it…again!” She expressed thanks to the Planning Team for the virtual meeting. A word of thanks was also extended to Tuckahoe Church and Westminster Church Richmond for hosting two small groups of people whose safe proximity to one another made the meeting run more smoothly.
The moderator reminded commissioners of the called meeting of the POJ on November 21, 2020. She announced: “Depending on the conditions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, our February 20, 2021 meeting is to be hosted by Second Church Richmond. The leadership will alert you well in advance of that meeting about whether we will meet in person or virtually.”
In Christ’s Service,
Fred A. Holbrook
Interim General Presbyter and Stated Clerk