There's a lot of discussion across the denomination about new ways of "doing presbytery."
This past weekend, I saw a terrific way of doing presbytery -- the Hands of Christ ministry in Charleston, SC. More than 20 congregations in Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery participate in this program, which distributes clothing and school supplies to needy children. In 2010, more than 4,000 kids each received one new pair of pants, one slightly used pair, two new shirts, two pairs of underwear and socks, and needed school supplies.
When Tammy Gregory Brown, the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charleston, where the program began, and I pulled up at the Aimwell Presbyterian Church on Saturday morning around 8:30, a line of people had already formed, even though the doors wouldn't open and the distribution wouldn't start until 9:30.
The volunteers that morning came not just from Aimwell and from Westminster, but from congregations all across the presbytery. What I heard again and again from the volunteers there on Saturday was how effective the Hands of Christ has been, not just in carrying out its intended mission, but also in bringing together Presbyterians of different races, different perspectives, different worship styles -- bringing them together while doing ministry together. Every distribution, which is held at participating churches across the presbytery, ends with a meal together.
Hands of Christ fills two needs: first, getting the basics that so many of us take for granted into the hands of kids who would otherwise do without; and, second, engaging Presbyterians in mission and ministry that doesn't involve debating or voting.
The most fascinating part of Saturday was watching the volunteers set-up and operate a "conveyor belt" by which clothes and supplies left over were loaded onto a trailer, ready to be taken to the next distribution site. Here's a photo -- but you can see an actual video clip at the Hands of Christ Facebook page.