Confession:  Today I skipped a meeting of Peace River Presbytery.

This is the eclessial body that acts as a kind of communal bishop for the Presbyterian congregations in this area.  Ministers (teaching elders) and a nearly equal number of ruling elders get together for worship, study, and making decisions about church life.  Among many other things, they approve persons for ministry, and try to discern what God would have us do in this place.

The very last thing I needed to do today was to go to a day-long meeting.  It did not qualify as self-care in any way, and hardly seemed a sensible way to spend 6 1/2 hours.

I thought to myself, “Well, today this small piece of the communal bishop will not be present. That can’t really be much different than what happens when the power of bishop is vested in an individual, and that person is not totally present when making decisions.”

But I’m not sure that I was right about that, even though the thought amused me.  In the first place, being part of such a communal undertaking is actually an highly unusual opportunity, and there is a kind of obligation to show up to make it work –and an odd kind of honor just to participate in the cumbersome, messy beauty of the thing.  More importantly, the absence of any member is actually significant.

Without the discernment of this, your humble servant, or any of the others, the full discernment mechanism of our church here in this place is missing a piece.  And without the voice of a particular piece of the whole, distortions in the communal chorus can more easily begin.

This is not about me being so important or insightful or eloquent.  Rather, it is about the nature of wholeness in a community.  Each person’s presence and voice is needed, and should be wanted, so that it becomes less possible for the loudest and most privileged voices to dominate, and that much more possible for that which is new and needed to break through.

In situations of violence, estrangement, or lack of trust, individual missing pieces can have an evern greater impact on what is possible.  Getting people to show up, and to keep showing up, matters.

So, I did what I needed to do for myself today, but I am aware that, as a result, I did not haul my piece of the puzzle to the table.

Would results have been different had I gone?  Who will ever know?