Westminster-St. Paul’s is a Presbyterian Church. “Presbyterian” is from the Greek word “presbuteros”
which means “elder,” so the denominational label, “Presbyterian” relates to how
the church is governed – by elders.
Elders are elected from the membership of the congregation. They are people in whom the gifts of
spiritual maturity and spiritual leadership have been discerned. Elders are ordained for life, however, the
active session (governing body of elders) at Westminster-St. Paul’s is smaller
than the whole of the eldership.
on the active session lasts 6 years.
During this time the elders meet monthly with the minister to review
every aspect of the church’s life, from its programs to the needs of the
individuals who comprise it. Each
member or adherent of the congregation is assigned an elder. Contact with this person includes a regular
visit, usually prior to communion, but should also provide a channel to air any
concerns within the life of the church, or to receive personal pastoral care.
If a concern is serious, it should be put in
writing and addressed to the Clerk (the Secretary) of Session. The Clerk of Session at Westminster-St. Paul’s
is Bob Renton.
One of the roles of the session is to review
the membership of the church. This
includes meeting with those who wish to profess their faith and enter into
membership. It is also the elders who
determine who may be baptized and who may be admitted to the Lord’s Table.
This year the Session has been incorporated
a time for study and enrichment into its monthly meeting. The topic of the session study is Rick
Warren’s best selling book: The Purpose Driven Church. Although it has been noted that our
identity and our context at Westminster-St. Paul’s are quite different than the
identity and context of Warren’s church of 10 000 in the Saddleback Valley of
California, it is hoped that this book study will guide us through some of the
work of self-examination which is preliminary to any intentional, evangelical
outreach into our community.
Session retreats are something
we hope to make twice-annual events. The one on January 21st has
devoted a portion of its day to following up some of the issues raised at the
Elder’s Institute workshop held October 1st, a portion to looking in
greater depth at the section of the Purpose Driven Church entailing a
bible study on the church and a definition of its purposes, and a portion doing
some study around the practice of baptism and communion at Westminster-St.
addition to the Session, which oversees the spiritual direction of a
congregation, the Managers are a very necessary part of the church’s
governance. They oversee the
nuts-and-bolts issues involved in the running of the building and decide on its
rental to outside groups. The church personnel
(eg. administrator, organist, custodian) are responsible to them.