Presbyterians Today

AUG-SEP 2018

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38 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay to sit a little closer. Hearts that once felt haggard began to surge with hospitality. Neighbors noticed the good things happening as the congregation embraced their new way of being. Many came to visit. The congrega- tion, now fully empowered to live up to the potential of their calling, welcomed them in. Twenty years later, what was once a struggling, bordering-on-dys- function congregation of 50 members has grown to a healthy 350-plus community. A thriving mission propels the people onward. The intervention Myers led has faded into memory. The congregation has truly moved on. Gusti Linnea Newquist is the pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York. congregation who might need assis- tance in processing their pain. She gathered a backup team and set up a meeting with the parishioner. He never appeared. He never returned. The people moved on. Presbyterian 'tough love' Throughout the remainder of her interim ministry with the congrega- tion, Myers continued to emphasize the strength of Presbyterian polity in supporting their movement toward greater health. "How we do things really matters. It's how we maintain healthy bound- aries," Myers said, in reference to Presbyterian polity. "It's our version of tough love." There is regret, however, as she considers the disappearance of the individual involved. What could have been, she wonders. "If he had been able to go through the intervention, he would have been loved," Myers said. In the absence of reconciliation, Myers focused instead on what Rediger calls "the law of goodness." "Where goodness is identified and nurtured," Rediger said, "the soul of a healthy congregation will bless all it touches." Several months later, in a sermon during Eastertide, Myers compared the ongoing potential of the congrega- tion to the raising of Tabitha in Acts. "The new thing you do in mission," Myers preached as she concluded her ministry with the congregation, "may end up healing you." And it did. Little by little, as the installed pastor stepped in, the congregation improved upon the foundation Myers' interim ministry had laid. Slowly but surely, the building began to look a little nicer. The people began In a 2016 article for Psychology Today, Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Ryback discusses what he calls "the five faces of toxic relationships." Ruling Elder Richard Baldwin of New Castle Presbytery and a member of Elkton Presbyterian Church in Elkton, Maryland, who supports congregations confronting challenging issues, offers tools for self-awareness for each of these "five faces" of toxicity. 1. The Critic judges and criticizes you as a person — as opposed to your behavior — no matter what you do. RB: Criticism of an idea is acceptable if we limit the criticism to the idea and do it in a kind, thoughtful manner and do not criticize the individual. 2. The Passive Aggressor speaks sarcastically and offers backhanded compliments. RB: Sarcasm, as a passive-aggressive response to ideas and opinions and people we do not like or agree with, can come across like a slap in the face. Christ values a kind, considerate and honest response to our brothers and sisters. 3. The Narcissist must always be the center of attention, the best at every- thing and is unwilling to compromise. RB: As soon as we demand that we be the primary resource and depository of all wisdom and knowledge — that is, to be the very center of attention in the group — we effectively shut down the collective wisdom of the group, and a huge treasure of insights and direction is lost. Keep Christ as the center of attention and draw upon the ideas and thoughts of the entire group to accomplish your purposes. 4. The Stonewaller refuses to com- municate to evade difficult issues. RB: Remember that the leader of the group is Christ himself. Ask for wisdom and direction from the Holy Spirit. You will, in fact, have something positive to contribute. 5. The Antisocial Personality explodes emotionally and sometimes physically and/or takes advantage of others without remorse. RB: It is so easy to become a bully, sometimes without even knowing we are doing it. If we are dominating another person intellectually, emo- tionally or physically, we are taking advantage of them. Ask yourself: Am I being unfairly critical, aggressive, unre- sponsive? How much more effective and productive would a gentle, loving attitude be? HOW NOT TO BE 'THAT GUY'

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