Relationships Working Group

Healthier Congregations Team

Relationships Working Group (RWG)

Jim Renfrew, Pastor, Byron Presbyterian Church

Ezekiel saw that wheel
Way up in the middle of the air
Ezekiel saw that wheel whirling
Way up in the middle of the air
Now the little wheel runs by faith
And the big wheel runs by the grace of God
And a wheel in a wheel whirling
Way up in the middle of the air

             (traditional)

I was a teenager when I got my first chance to preach at my home church in Severna Park, Maryland.  In fact, my Dad, Robert, and I shared the sermon.  And the text was the vision of Ezekiel’s Wheel.  I know that Ezekiel’s’ Wheel is a complicated image to picture in our minds, with wheels within wheels and more.  But my Dad and I imagined a simple wheel, an everyday wheel, like a wagon wheel or a bicycle wheel.

My Dad talked about the wheel like an engineer would, because he was an engineer at IBM.  So he talked about preparing a blueprint, then securing the various parts, assembling the necessary tools, and then constructing the wheel.  Once the wheel was completed it would help move people and things from one place to another.  For my Dad, faith was something to be constructed out of available parts, and when finished could carry us far along the spiritual road! Amen!

I saw the wheel as a parable of relationships in the lives of Christians:  the wheel’s hub is God, the spokes are people, and the rim is community.  Spokes without a hub or rim collapse in a pile of sticks.  A hub without spokes or rim spins without traction.  Rims  lacking hub or spokes are little more than hula hoops.  But a wheel with strong hub, sturdy spokes secured to it, and a solid rim to keep it true is a wheel ready to move.  People like ourselves, centered in God, and united in a faith community are also ready to move! Amen!

Ezekiel’s Wheel continues to be a parable for me, now in understanding the purpose of the HCT Relationships Working Group of our Presbytery.  Our new Presbytery design, building up from six new neighborhood groups, is all about moving forward in ministry and mission, but healthy relationships are going to be essential if we intend to move at all!

THE RWG task is to encourage relationships.  We have a liaison with each neighborhood group.  We listen carefully for each neighborhood’s opportunities and challenges.  We remind ourselves that the front line of ministry in this presbytery is now in neighborhoods and congregations.  How can we get this new design off the ground?  How can we help it move forward?  What tools and training can we bring to each neighborhood group?  How can we help our neighborhoods become healthier in our congregations and in our communities?  How can we evaluate our progress?  How shall we re-tune our wheels should they get out of alignment?

Perhaps the biggest concern, as we move forward, is how we help each other measure “health”, in our congregations, neighborhoods and communities.  We have traditional measurements of “health”: membership, budget and building condition.  But we are looking at other metrics to help us measure our progress, such as passion, ministry contacts, outreach strategies, and we are sure that there are many others.

So relationships among our people and congregations will be critical as we move ahead.  But of course it’s not just about the spokes and the rim.  It’s very much about the hub: God motivating, God healing, God repairing, God encouraging, God empowering, God reaching us in Jesus Christ and transforming us as disciples like never before!

RWG is a small group in this early stage of our new presbytery design.  We invite you to be a part of our work.  We usually meet every other month or so, but our most important work comes in direct involvement with neighborhoods.  We could use your help!

Jeanine Haven, Wyoming  (convener)

Al Santos, Penfield

Ed Hoener, Scottsville

Kay Van Nostrand, Lyndonville

Jim Renfrew, Byron