The Response Team to work with the Newton Presbyterian Church was created by action of the Presbytery of Boston during the September 2015 meeting of the Presbytery. That Response Team submitted a final report dated June 22, 2016 to both the Newton Presbyterian Church session and the Council of the Presbytery of Boston. The report details their conversations with members of the church and the session, and offered the recommendation inserted below as a way forward for the Newton Presbyterian Church. The full text of the Response Team report is available by clicking here.
- An encouragement to explore a Joint Congregational Witness with Highrock Church. In an email to the Newton Session on May 18, the Response Team indicated its willingness to advocate for a Joint Congregational Witness relationship between the Newton Presbyterian Church and the Highrock Church. We understand this could be seen as extending what many find to be an overly long process of discernment. We also understand the concept of a shared relationship might not be acceptable to Highrock. Yet, trusting God’s Spirit has led the discussion and opened the door to this possibility, we offer the following in support of an exploration of a Joint Congregational Witness (JCW):
- JCW relationships most often begin when two congregations, of different denominations but usually in the same community, find ways to worship or do mission together. Often, due to a staffing change, or concerns about maintaining two facilities, or a desire to have a larger worshiping community, the two congregations begin to explore formalizing their relationship. We recognize there is no such history between Highrock and Newton PC, that Highrock is not in the city of Newton, and only Newton PC has a building that would be involved in any relationship. Yet, both have staff, and we find a shared sense of mission and evangelism undergirds this exploration. Still, the relationship is only in its initial stage of exploration.
- We believe a JCW, compared to a dismissal to ECO, has a better opportunity to foster the unity desired by much of the congregation, enabling most members to continue to find a home within what will be a larger congregation, without their beliefs or views being dismissed, even if they are in the minority.
- We believe the relationship with Highrock has the possibility of infusing new people and energy into the life of Newton as it shares its building with another congregation. We also believe each congregation will bring its own distinct “culture” to the relationship. We believe it also affords the opportunity for creative staffing, though this is often a difficult discussion.
- We believe the commitment to taking time to form a Joint Congregational Witness will enable Newton’s next pastor to have input into shaping the relationship’s details. We also believe it affords time for those who are cautious or uncertain about the change to experience how it takes shape.
- Due to the fact that the idea of a relationship with Highrock Church is just three months old, we believe it will take time and experience for details of a JCW to be formulated. We believed it would be valuable for the Presbytery to offer someone with experience in such a relationship as a resource to the Session (e.g., someone who has had experience in what was formerly called a union or federated model.) We have contacted the Stated Clerk and Resource Presbyter of the Presbytery in this regard, and a willing contact person with experience has been forwarded to the Session.