Presbytery Meeting Summary- May 14, 2024 Hybrid Meeting

Presbytery Worship and Dedication of the Highlands Pavilion

It was a full and memorable meeting at the Johnsonburg Camp and Retreat Center when the Presbytery of the Highlands of New Jersey held its May 14th gathering. In fact, by the time the meeting itself began after dinner, many attendees had been at the Camp for many hours, learning about some important changes taking place in the Board of Pensions, worshiping, and then dedicating to God a significant addition to Johnsonburg’s ministry, made possible by  Highlands’ generosity.

Many arrived at midday to meet with the Rev. Carrie Mitchell, Regional Representative of the Board of Pensions. She spoke to two dozen ministers of Word of Sacrament whose pension and medical dues are changing as of 2025. Many questions were raised, many were answered, and churches and pastors can anticipate more information to come.

Immediately following this presentation, the Presbytery gathered under the brand-new Highlands Pavilion for worship. Our preacher was a special guest, Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, Moderator of the General Assembly, and our Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Philadelphia, our neighbor to the southwest. Her sermon, inspired by John 1:1-4, was entitled, “Where Heaven Meets Earth,” included meaningful experiences from her nearly two-year term as Moderator. Other worship leaders were Elder Elise Bates Russell (Long Valley), the Camp’s Executive Director; Elder Sue Cail (Ringwood), Presbytery Moderator; Rev. Chad Rodgers, Rev. Sarah Green (Wharton), Rev. Ryon Herin (Rockaway), and Presbytery Leader, Rev. Jeanne Radak. Music was provided by Johnsonburg Musicians Justin Beaumont and Eka Tawe.

Following worship, Elise Bates Russell and Jeanne Radak led in a Service of Dedication, committing the Highlands Pavilion to God’s service in the Camp’s important ministry. Composed of wood and stone not far from the Dining Hall, in the newly named Kirkwood Hollows, its open space, flexible seating, large fireplace, and pizza ovens are sure to make it a popular destination for campers and retreatants alike.

You can find a video of the worship service and dedication here, and photos here.

Report of the Stated Clerk

Under his regular report, Stated Clerk Steve Shussett informed those assembled that the Remedial charge filed against the Presbytery had been heard by the Synod of the Northeast’s Permanent Judicial Commission. He explained that remediation is the process by which councils, including presbyteries, are held accountable for action or inaction that is contrary to the Constitution, and gave a summary of the Decision and Order reached (found at 7:30 of the recording of the Presbytery Meeting). The results were mixed, and the Presbytery is taking action to resolve delinquencies found. The report in its entirety can be found here, and the decision on whether, and how, to respond is forthcoming.

Following an important update on the New Jersey Partnership Insurance Program, the Presbytery was treated to an unexpected highlight in the celebration of Hildale Park Presbyterian Church’s generosity. Pastor Ross Lang shared that over the past three years, this congregation of 45 weekly worshippers has contributed over $29,000 to the One Great Hour of Sharing!

Committee on Preparation

Elder Donna Rahmann (Fairmount), Co-Moderator of Committee on Preparation for Ministry, then presented an update to the Presbytery’s Commissioned Ruling Elder policy. CRE’s are ruling elders who, after a course of study and meeting Presbytery requirements, can be commissioned to serve in many ways as a pastor to a specified congregation. While significantly less than what is required to become a minister of Word and Sacrament, it is no less important and faithful a calling, especially in the changing 21st century. If you are interested in exploring the possibility, you can find the new policy here.

Nominating Committee

The Presbytery continued looking to the future in a series of committee reports concerning people, funding, and governance. First, Elder Lisa Gray (Old Greenwich) presented the Nominating Committee report, successfully placing Elder Richard Rubin (Morristown) before the assembled, to serve on the Administration and Coordinating Committee (ACT).

Administration and Coordinating Team

Elder Pete Peterson (Clinton), Co-Moderator of the ACT, presented the wide array of giving opportunities in support of the Presbytery, and giving thanks for the exceptional generosity shown in recent years. And as an overarching presentation regarding the many gifts we’ve been given, and are called to use, Presbytery Leader Jeanne Radak gave a report on the Discernment Team’s recent retreat.

Commissioning of the General Assembly Commissioners

The meeting then closed with the commissioning of the Presbytery’s four commissioners to the 2024 (226th) General Assembly, taking place in Salt Lake City in June and July. Commissioned with our prayers were Ruling Elders Craig Barth (Morristown) and Alec Jain (Morris Plains), and Teaching Elders Rich Gelson (Pilgrim), and Robin Palmer Burton (Highlands).

With that, Moderator Sue Cail adjourned the meeting with prayer, until next we gather on September 10 from 7-9PM in a hybrid meeting of Camp Johnsonburg and Zoom.

Elder Rick Freidl, a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Ridgewood, provided an update on the New Jersey Presbyterian Insurance Partnership.   Click here for a video of the presentation and more Insurance Information.

Jeanne Radak, Presbytery Leader gave an overview of the Discernment Team’s recent retreat and shared information about the information gathered so far by the Discernment Team.  Click here for Discernment Team information. 

Sharing our Stories: Hildale Park and One Great Hour of Sharing

Rev. Ross Lang shared the story of the Hildale Presbyterian Church and their generosity in contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing.  Over the past three years this small congregation has contributed almost $30,000. Hear about their story by clicking here. 

Clergy Care Fund

The day’s offering was dedicated to the Clergy Care Fund which assists pastors in times of crisis and emergency.  Gifts may be given online by

  • using the QR Code below
  • going to the Highlands Presbytery website here
  • texting “PRESBY Meeting” to 73256
  • or sending a check to Presbytery of the Highlands, 390 Route 10 West, Randolph, NJ 07869, and putting “Clergy Care Fund” in the Memo Line.