A Covenant

On Sunday, September 28, I will begin a five part sermon series that will focus on the five parts of “shared ministry” that is outlined in my covenant with the Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church.  In preparation for beginning this journey, I have posted a copy of the covenant so that people can begin consider what it means to be in a covenant with one another.




  Within Scripture, a covenant is a document between two parties in which both commit to work for a mutually desired outcome.  Within Scripture, we read about God establishing covenants with Noah to save humanity from the flood and with Abraham and his descendants to establish Israel as a light to the nations.  God has established a new covenant open to all who follow and believe in Jesus Christ.  Within a covenant, each party pledges their responsibilities.  In keeping with the Biblical witness of covenants, the Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia, and the Rev. Dr. Charles Jeffrey Garrison, understanding ourselves to have been called into the mutual service of God, now enter into a covenant with one another.  This covenant is grounded in our shared faith in God, acknowledges our sinfulness as humans, our dependence on the grace, mercy and forgiveness of a loving God, and provides a structure for our shared ministry as we live out our faith in this place and time.   This covenant, embraced by the Rev. Dr. Garrison (Pastor) and congregation of the Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church and endorsed by the Committee on Ministry of the Savannah Presbytery, will take effect August 1, 2014 and remains in effect until the covenant is reviewed, amended or sustained as needed, after prayerful consideration and review by all parties involved in this covenant.   SHARED VISION:  Although we have different purposes, together we (the Pastor/Teaching Elder, Ruling Elders and members of the congregation) make up the body of Christ in the world, the church.  We are committed to work together to fulfill the great ends of the Church:   The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; The maintenance of divine worship; The preservation of the truth; The promotion of social righteousness; and The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world. (Book of Order, F-1.0304)   SHARED THEOLOGY:  We affirm our allegiance to God in Jesus Christ.  We adhere to the essential tenets of the Reformed Tradition as articulated in the Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  We understand these tenets to include: a belief in the Triune God and the incarnation of the eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ, the dependence on God’s grace through Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, the election of God’s people for salvation and service, a covenant life marked by a disciplined concern for order in the church according to the Word of God, a faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation and seeks proper use of the gifts of God’s creation, and the recognition of the human tendency to idolatry and tyranny which calls the people of God to work for the transformation of society by seeking justice and living in obedience to the Word of God.  (Book of Order, F-2.03-2.05)   SHARED MINISTRY:  As followers of Jesus Christ, we share in his ministry.  Although far from perfect, as a worshipping community, we are to be an expression of God’s kingdom and are entrusted with God’s message of reconciliation. (Book of Confessions, 9.31)  As disciples, we are all involved in ministry.  The Pastor serves as the Teaching Elder and is responsible to proclamation of God’s word through the weekly sermon, as well on other occasions such as Bible Studies and teaching within the Christian Education programs.  It is the duty of the Ruling Elders (Session) to arrange for the pulpit to be filled when the Pastor is absent and to share with the Pastor in the leading of worship.  The Pastor shall also be available to aid those who teach in the Christian Education programs of the church.  Furthermore, the Pastor will participate in New Member and Confirmation Classes and the training of Elders.  Together, the Pastor and the Session are to provide for the discipleship of the entire congregation by recruiting those who have been given such skills to teach and mentor.   The Pastor, Ruling Elders and members of the congregation all have a role in the care of those in need both within and outside of our fellowship.  Next to public worship and preaching, the pastoral care of the congregation is of primary concern for the Pastor.  He is to be with those who grieve at the time of death, and to be available for officiating at funerals.  Along with the Ruling Elders, he is to call on those who are seriously ill and homebound.  Together, they shall see to it that those who are not able to be physically present in worship have an opportunity to share in the Lord’s Supper at least twice a year.  The Pastor is to also be present at times of joy, celebrating with new parents as he informs them of the responsibilities required of them as they bring children to be baptized.  He is also to counsel with couples seeking to be married and be available, if possible, to officiate at such unions if requested and if he feels the couple is ready for such a commitment.  The Pastor shall also be available for short-term pastoral counseling for persons with personal or spiritual problems.  The Pastor and the congregation acknowledge that he is not a trained psychologist or psychiatrist and, depending of the need, may refer such individuals to a more qualified professional.   The pastoral care of the congregation is not only the responsibility of the Pastor and the Session.  All members of the body of Christ are to care for one another.  Furthermore, we are all to be committed to doing our part in the sharing of God’s good news in Jesus Christ, in word and deed, as we point to him as the source of our strength and serve others in his name.   The congregation’s ministry does not occur in a vacuum.  Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church is but a small part of Christ’s Church in the world.  As a part of the larger church, the Pastor and Ruling Elders participate in the life of the Presbytery of Savannah and the Presbyterian Church (USA).  The Pastor will faithfully serve as a presbyter within the Presbytery and, with the concurrence of Session, be open to serve in the higher bodies of the denomination (such as a commissioner to the Synod or General Assembly or as a committee member within the larger church).  Likewise, Ruling Elders are also to be open to opportunities to serve the larger church. The Pastor will also be a colleague to those serving other congregations on Skidaway Island and the surrounding areas.   SHARED LEADERSHIP:  Together, the Pastor and the Session are responsible for the vision and leadership of the Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church.  We will work together to discern God’s direction for the congregation as we strive to both share the gospel and meet the spiritual needs of the community in which we minster.  Furthermore, we pledge to seek ways to further Christ’s mission not only on Skidaway Island, but in Chatham County and to the ends of the earth.  This vision shall be shared with the congregation through the voice of the Session as well as in the sermons of the Pastor.  The Pastor, as Head of Staff, is responsible for the leadership of the church staff and to share the Session’s vision with them as they work together, each using their own gifts and responsibilities, to further the vision of the church.  This leadership includes holding regular staff meetings and, with the assistance of the Personnel Committee, conducting staff reviews.   SHARED CONCERNS:  The Congregation and the Pastor will seek to hold one another in prayer, to speak truth in love, to remember that God alone is the Lord of our conscience and, when there are disagreements, exercise mutual forbearance.  (Book of Order, F-3.0101 and F-3.0105)   The congregation and Pastor are in agreement regarding the terms of call for the Pastor, which are attached hereto as Exhibit “A” and made a part hereof and congregation declares its intention to provide the Pastor with the terms of call and to review these terms of call on an annual basis as required by the Book of Order (G-2.0804).  Such reviews will take into consideration changes in the cost of living as well any proposed merit increases.   The Congregation and Session promise to support the Pastor by providing him with four weeks vacation and two weeks study leave per year.  The scheduling of this time shall be done through the Personnel Committee.  Because ministry is demanding emotionally, the Congregation and Session encourages the Pastor to take a weekly Sabbath (a 24 hour period away from ministry) as well as another day a week off (this may be broken into parts such as a Saturday afternoon and a Sunday afternoon). Furthermore, the Pastor is to take good care of himself and spend time with his family. It is expected that he will reside on and become a part of the community on Skidaway Island.  To facilitate this, the congregation will provide him with a tennis level membership at the Landings.  The Session, through the Personnel Committee, recognizes that the Pastor is human and comes with strengths and limitations.  The Ruling Elders will encourage the Pastor to use his strengthens and, where necessary, work on his limitations.   The Pastor promises to lead with humility, to seek out God’s will for himself and the congregation, to study the scriptures, and to preach sermons from Scripture.  He will seek to be a friend to the friendless, an encourager to the downtrodden, and a colleague and mentor to Ruling Elders and the Staff.  He will thank and encourage those who support the ministry of the church, listen to advice and concerns, admit limitations and mistakes, ask forgiveness when someone has been wronged, and in all things give God the glory. Approved by the Committee of Ministry of the Savannah Presbytery on June 3, 2014 Accepted by the Congregation of the Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church on June 8, 2014 Accepted by the Pastor on June 8, 2014 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *