The word Presbyterian comes from the Greek word, presbuteros, which means elder. This word is used seventy-two times in the New Testament. The early church maintained a continuity with the Old Testament using elders in leadership positions. Although we accept that all are called by Christ into ministry. We are also called to particular ministries. Some of us are called to the leadership of the church--to be elders. As Presbyterians, we get our name from the way we organize our life together.
In the Presbyterian Church, there are two classes of elders--Ministers of Word and Sacrament and ruling elders. In our church, the pastor is not the C.E.O. Christ always remains head of the Church, but the pastor and current elders serve together on a session providing leadership and guidance for the church in obedience to Christ.
A long time ago, Presbyterian churches realized that they could accomplish more for God together than apart. The presbytery was the answer to the common call of ministry over a specific geographic area. Ministers and congregations form a presbytery, and it exists to provide accountability for ministers and churches, to prepare people to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and to support mission. On June 9-10, our congregation will be hosting Palo Duro Presbytery. Elders and pastors from fifty-five churches will soon be on our doorstep. Analogous to the session, they gather to provide leadership and guidance for all of Palo Duro Presbytery.
Every presbytery meeting has the feeling of a family reunion. We come together and see people that we haven’t seen in a long time. There will be hugs, kisses and perhaps, a few tears. We will watch our manners and encourage others to be on their best behavior. We will share stories of joy and sorrow. We will tell the same old worn out jokes. At times, presbytery will be a pleasure, and at others it will be a burden. Still, we will gather as sisters and brothers of Christ--a luxury many take for granted. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together, reminds us that many Christians such as the sick, those persecuted, or scattered are unable to afford that luxury. He writes, “It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament.” On June 9-10, let us give thanks to God that we can gather together.