Once again, the Presbytery of the Western Reserve took to the streets! Actually, we drove to Ashtabula, OH and set up shop at Harbor Perk coffee shop for the day. Because we have a brilliant office manager, we are able to be mobile. Our office phone is on our cell phones and any document we need to access happens by logging into a secure network.
This is the second time we’ve held office hours in Ashtabula and I will confess, I wondered if it would be as “successful” as the last time. The last time, we were “busy” from 10 – 4. And by “busy”, I mean we had people come by the entire time. We heard stories and fielded questions. We received suggestions, compliments and complaints. It was time well spent.
Since then, I have made a concerted effort to be more present in Ashtabula county—our far eastern boundary. We have 8 churches there; all in various stages. Some have installed pastors, some are led by commissioned ruling elders, some have no staff at all save for volunteers. Each congregation has a different story to tell and there has been some renewed energy among these 8 faith communities in coming together to share in ministry and mission. How can they work together for the good of the county?
Because I know more people in these churches and they have, I think, a better sense of the Presbytery, I wondered just how many folks would show up on Tuesday. The day started strong; people came that had not come the last time. Conversations were happening at three different tables. Around 1 p.m. we took a lunch break. After lunch, it was just the three of us (me, our brilliant office manager, our amazing hunger action advocate). We had brought “work” with us—computers and iPads appeared; notebooks were laid out on the table; bookmarks were taken out of books. For a bit we each were absorbed in our own thoughts, our own emails. And then I said, “So, was today successful?” And we decided it was. And it was even more successful because of the smaller numbers. Because the Presbytery had been present in other ways, people didn’t feel compelled to come see us that day—and I choose to believe, it’s because they know we’ll be back—yes, for another mobile office day and for other times as well.
Leaving the coffee shop, our brilliant office manager (whose name is Josh, by the way) and I decided that the way we spent the first part of the day was the most important work we do as Presbytery staff. He summed it up nicely by saying “I’m a connector.”
A while back I mentioned to our Stated Clerk that I really enjoyed writing these blogs posts and yet, I hadn’t written one in a while. “That’s because,” she said “it’s not an emergency.” So much of what I do does in fact seem like an emergency—either to me or to someone else. The coffee shop day reminded me that connectional work is really what this work is all about. And making (and taking) time for that is will be my focus moving forward. (that and the occasional blog post)