Thursday, February 28, 2013
Sandy and Connectionalism
That's a word we Presbyterians are fond of using as we describe what makes us different from other Christian churches.
To be connectional is not to be hierarchical (with the church ruled from above), nor is it congregational (with the church governed as a pure democracy on the local level). Rather, the way we order our life together is a mix of both approaches.
We like to think we get the best of both worlds.
Presbyterians are noted for hosting visiting volunteer workers in disaster areas, and the reason we've developed that specialty has something to do with our connectional nature. Every disaster is different, so people on the ground in the affected areas are best-equipped to call the shots. Yet, the expertise of experienced aid workers - like the PDA National Response Team members who have been crisscrossing our local area, supporting congregations in their relief work - is something we could never replicate on our own.
This is one reason why we're able to reach out to our local area as part of the long-term recovery, drawing on resources to which other local churches have no access.
For years, we've been contributing to the One Great Hour of Sharing, received by churches of leading Protestant denominations on Palm Sunday or Easter each year. One-third of One Great Hour offerings go to support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Few of us ever imagined we'd be recipients of PDA help ourselves, but Sandy has changed all that.
That's another reason why it's a great thing to be connectional.