Today, I will be attending the first meeting of a new group that may become a new presbytery, a governing body in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Western Region, as it is named, includes all of Pinellas County and portions of Pasco Country, Florida. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay has created three new regions and will delegate most of the work of the Presbytery to these three new commissions. As we begin this new adventure in the Presbytery of Tampa Bay, I will blog about questions that need to be asked, and invite guest bloggers to blog about our new way of being a Presbytery.

Why is this important? I think it is important not only for Presbyterians but for anyone who is interested in the nature of religion in American in the 21st Century. As we begin this new adventure, we will examine questions of identity, community, hope and meaning. Is this a new beginning for Presbyterians in Tampa Bay or simply the beginning of the end, and we don’t know it yet? What is religious life going to look like in the future? We are living into that new life starting today.

In many yoga practices, instructors often talk about having a beginner’s mind. “Begin your practice today as if for the first time,” they say. And, “Your body is never at the same place. Don’t judge where you are today based on where you were a few years ago or where you want to be.” This seems like good advice for our presbytery too, the body of Christ. Your body is never at the same place. Don’t judge the presbytery based on where we were a few years ago or where we want to be. Can we simply observe the presbytery, without judging it? Can we dismantle our expectations, and be open to the Spirit of God today?

I remember first learning about adopting a beginner’s mind while reading a book by Thomas Merton. You can read more about that here. He wrote about the need to be content with being a beginner as we pray and meditate. We don’t want to be beginners, he wrote, but that is what we will always be. As we live into what it means to be Presbyterian in the 21st Century, we will need a beginner’s mind. I will be posting 2 or 3 times a week about 365 Days in the life of the new Western Region of the Tampa Bay Presbytery.

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