To help the denomination’s newest mid-council moderators design and carry out purposeful meetings, organizers of last weekend’s Moderators’ Conference gathered a who’s who of helpful voices:
- The Rev. Jihyun Oh, director of the Office of the General Assembly’s Mid Council Ministries
- valerie izumi, manager of General Assembly Nominations in the Office of the General Assembly
- The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for Worship in the Office of Theology & Worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency
- The Rev. Josh Park, manager of Korean-Speaking Councils Support in the Office of the General Assembly
In meetings of presbyteries and synods and their committees, moderators have many responsibilities to manage, izumi said, including gauging the atmosphere of the room, expressing “a sense of confidence,” and guiding “the flow of conversation.”
“Be open to feedback, solicit feedback — and learn,” izumi told the incoming moderators. “It’s really hard work, and you need to care for yourself.” Moderators can learn more by listening to the “Along the Road” podcasts created by the Office of the General Assembly. New episodes drop every Wednesday.
“Remembering our purpose [to glorify God and enjoy God now and forever] can help us get out the way and pay attention to what God is doing in us, around us and throughout the world,” Gambrell said. “I always emphasize starting with the Word of God. I don’t plan a worship service until I know what the Scriptures are.” Next steps include following the Spirit, “surrounding everything in prayer” and remembering the body, both the whole person and the whole church. “It means engaging all of who we are in worship,” Gambrell said, which “truly should be the work of the whole people of God together.”
Park, who was an engineer before coming to work in Mid Council Ministries, asked moderators to pay attention to the audio component required for in-person, online and hybrid meetings. “Up your audio game,” he said, suggesting a condenser microphone be placed in the room to pick up “a little bit of the ambient sound,” such as reactions by those attending in person. Consider the video from the perspective of the remote person, Park said, and test the technology in advance. “Sometimes an hour [ahead of time] is not enough,” Park said.
At the center of our faith is the doctrine of incarnation, Gambrell noted, “made present to us [during worship] in water, bread and wine. How do we live that out online?”
In addition, “It’s hard to sing and make music on Zoom. It’s hard to feel connected as singing people,” Gambrell said. “We can also consider different forms and patterns of worship. Daily prayer and liturgies work really well in an online context.”
We’ve learned a number of lessons during and following the pandemic, Oh said, including this one: “Don’t simply take what we do in person and do it the same way online, or hybrid.”
“We think of technology as a tool, but it’s a channel for exchanging information and promoting ideas,” Park said.
During the plenary session, moderators broke into small groups to share their ideas on holding purposeful meetings.
One talked about people joining hybrid meetings online sometimes feeling like second-class citizens. “Last time I joined online,” this moderator said, “I listened for about 15 minutes, then played board games with my wife and daughter. It’ll take us a while to figure it out.”
Another moderator talked about the success one presbytery has experienced with pre-recorded videos sprinkled throughout hybrid meetings. “They aren’t big-production deals,” this moderator said. “It equalizes the online and in-person experience, and it’s efficient.”
“Awesome meetings — that’s what we want to have,” Park said. “There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Preparation and practice are keys, and it also takes everyone’s understanding. Use meetings for the mission of the church,” Park urged, “and the glory of God.”