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A Very Special Relationship

by Suzanne Davis

Rulering Elder Vilmarie Cintron-Olivieri, and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann , co-moderators of the 223rd General Assembly of the PC(USA). (Photo by Michael Whitman)

There I am in total Presbyterian geekiness watching the election of our new co-moderators at the General Assembly this past June on streaming video, seeing a teaching elder and ruling elder elected as co-moderators. They said they were a reflection of the shared leadership of the Presbyterian church, teaching elder and ruling elder.

As they stood together on the stage, I pondered the relationship between those who are pastors and those who are not, and how indeed they do share together in the work and wonder of the church. Because we’re all in this, how do we do it? How does the pastor work with the those who often have little time for the church work? How does the church leader shore up their own spiritual insecurity to lead others? What is this special sauce of a working relationship that is beyond amateur and pro?

My own experience working with pastors at the nine churches which I attended in the past 26 years was that I was the willing pair of hands and the pastor was the connector and resource person. Until recently, the longest that I had lived in any one area was 3 years. Being involved and participating in NEXT Church has been the longest “church” relationship of my adult life. God bless those patient souls who have been around for my formation! Through NEXT Church, I have learned about the trends of church membership, about innovative ministries all over the US, about Cultivated Ministry (How do you define success and enliven old leadership models?), and community organizing (Revolutionary thought – Get to know people and have more than an everyday pleasant exchange at least once). Probably the biggest idea which has taken a hold on me is that we are indeed in this church thing together, pulpit-filler and pew-sitter, west and east, north and south, conservative and progressive, small and large church, rural and urban. We each bring a point of view that is valuable, important, and worthy of hearing.

This month in the blog, you will hear from singular voices as well as collaborative voices reflecting on this working relationship of teaching elders and ruling elders. Many of the authors are from the Charlotte area, where most were involved in the NEXT Church Elder Symposium held last year. You will also hear from a pastor who was “checking out” the NEXT Church National Gathering to see if the elders and leaders from their church would be a good fit. The message there is that it is important to share the experience with the pew-sitters in their church!

And on that very important note –

Peace be with you all!


Suzanne Davis is a ruling elder on the NEXT Church strategy team where she is challenged and stretched to move into roles she never thought were her ability! She is a proud spouse of a retired military officer with 2 children that are on their own. While she loves travel, she also enjoys staying in with the dog and cat!