Presbytery Meeting in the Cloud

At the October 2019 meeting of the presbytery in Malvern, PA, not one attendee had the slightest idea about the events that were to unfold during 2020. The cancelation of the May Week of Prayer and the deferral of most presbytery business until the October Week of Prayer and presbytery meeting left the members reasonably confident that the meetings in Calgary would take place. When the Executive Committee (composed of the five presbytery officers) realized that ongoing international travel restrictions would prevent the Calgary meetings from taking place, the Executive Committee began to consider alternatives. Some items of presbytery business required action, such as the adoption of the presbytery’s budget for 2021.

At the Executive Committee’s request, the presbytery voted to authorize a virtual meeting by the use of the Zoom platform that many companies, schools, and church organizations used during the closures that occurred because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Executive Committee planned the meeting for October 6-7. Each day began with up to an hour for the preaching of the Word. Following the preaching, there was an hour for corporate prayer. After a one- hour break, the meeting resumed for two hours of business. On the second day, the presbytery completed its agenda at the end of one and a half hours, leaving the remaining half-hour for an additional season of prayer.

A total of thirty members of the presbytery attended the entire two days of the meeting or significant parts of it. Thankfully, the technological problems were at a minimum, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Jonathan McAnally, a ruling elder from Toronto FPC, who acted as the host for the meeting. Rev. Ian Goligher from Cloverdale FPC, the moderator of the presbytery, preached the Word during the Tuesday prayer session with Rev. David Mook from Phoenix FPC, the clerk of the presbytery, taking the assignment for the Wednesday prayer session.

The Executive Committee directed that all reports for the presbytery had to be in writing and had to be available for circulation a week in advance. That approach meant that there was no reading of the reports, which left time for questions or discussion followed by the adoption of each report. The presbytery also agreed to defer some items of business until the time when the presbytery members can meet in person.

Among the highlights of the business portion of the meeting was the adoption of the Finance Committee’s proposed 2021 budget. The Mission Board’s report included the announcement that the Board intends to retain the services of Mr. Ben Owen, an accountant and a member of the Greenville congregation, to assist in the monitoring of the Board’s annual budget. The appointment will be effective on January 1, 2021.

Other actions the presbytery took included the approval of Mr. John Kelly’s application to
be received under the presbytery’s care. The Publications Committee reported that Dr. Stephen Pollock succeeded Rev. Goligher as editor of Current beginning with the Spring 2020 issue and recorded its appreciation for the stellar manner of Mr. Goligher’s work in that position.

Because of the forthcoming retirement of Rev. Goligher from the pastorate in Cloverdale, the presbytery agreed to the Cloverdale session’s request to appoint Dr. Larry Saunders of Toronto FPC as the interim moderator of the church, effective on the retirement date. The presbytery also appointed Rev. Goligher to function as Rev. Paul Backhurst’s senior minister until 2023. The special commission that conducted Rev. Backhurst’s installation in Calgary FPC on September 18 delivered its report of the Lord’s blessing on that occasion.

While the members of the presbytery regretted the inability for in-person fellowship and discussion, they came
to the adjournment of the virtual meeting with thanks to the Lord for His providential appointment of the unusual means that enabled the required business of the presbytery to proceed. The presbytery hopes, in the will of the Lord, to resume its in-person meetings at Faith FPC in Greenville, SC in May 2021.

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By David Mook

Rev. David G. Mook is the minister of Phoenix Free Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Arizona. He serves as clerk of the presbytery of the FPCNA, chairman of the Constitutional Documents Committee, and is an adjunct professor in the field of practical theology at Geneva Reformed Seminary.