When Parkwood church was founded in 1964 the prevailing governance model for a Presbyterian church
was the long-established one of having two bodies: a Kirk Session (or Session) consisting of ruling
elders and moderated by the minister, to look after the spiritual side of things, and a
Board of Managers consisting of lay persons, often non-elders, to look after the "secular" affairs
of the congregation. The Book of Forms, the "rule book" of the Presbyterian Church in Canada,
provides details on the functioning of these two bodies, in its chapters entitled "THE SESSION"
and in the subsection of the chapter "THE CONGREGATION AND ITS MANAGEMENT" on the BOARD OF MANAGERS.
Elders were elected and members of the Board of Managers were chosen at the annual meeting of the
congregation. The most current Book of Forms can be downloaded from the national church website
In 1969 the national church received a special report from its Committee on Life and Mission entitled
"Into the 70's in life and mission" (commonly referred to as the LAMP Report, referring to Life And Mission Project), which recommended
an alternate governance model:
"In order that Sessions might better plan, supervise and execute the affairs of the congregation, a series
of committees should be elected from the congregation, including committees of Policy and Planning,
Nurture and Worship, Mission and Outreach, and a committee entitled Finance and Maintenance which would
fulfil the terms of the Board of Managers as described in The Book of Forms, together with any other
committees required by the local situation."
This recommendation suggested that a congregation have four standing committees as shown in the diagram to the right.
Other committees or temporary task groups could be formed and dissolved as the situation and work required.
All committees and task groups would be related directly or indirectly to the Session, which would provide
general supervision and retain final authority in all aspects of the congregation's life and mission.
Committees would care for the detailed work and would report at regular intervals as determined by the Session.
Anyone in the congregation could serve on a committee or task group. Rotation of committee membership would be
desirable. A method would need to be devised for making suitable appointments to the committees either by the
Session or at congregational meetings. While the original recommendation was that the committee chairpersons
be elders, the General Assembly disagreed and gave congregations the freedom to name elders or others to these
posts. In each congregation, a statement of responsibilities was to be worked out for each standing committee,
with the following general guidelines as a starting point. The words are taken directly from the LAMP Report...
Policy and Planning Committee
- Responsible for general planning and evaluation of the congregation's life and work, helping to establish broad
program objectives from year to year.
- The committee could use such means as congregational meetings, local conferences or retreats, and opinion surveys
to help formulate objectives, policies and general plans which would be referred to the Session and to other
committees or task groups for consideration, development and implementation.
- Some congregations find it useful to have a program council to deal with "policy and planning". This body
is usually representative of the major groups in the congregation, and would operate in place of a policy
and planning committee.
Worship and Nurture Committee
- Responsible for leadership in matters of worship, education and training, visitation and lay pastoral care of the congregation.
- Many ministers and sessions are presently assisted in these functions by committees of Christian Education
and of church music. Further involvement of lay persons is suggested here, in the development of worship
in the congregation, and in providing more extensive pastoral care services through such means as visitation
and counselling services. The possibility of developing pastoral care services through elder's districts
should be explored. Suggestions about church worship elsewhere in this report should be considered.
Mission and Outreach Committee
- Responsible for leadership in evangelism, social action, special ministries in the community, participation
in national and world mission, and personal witness in daily life.
- This committee would lead the congregation in all aspects of its responsibility to the world around,
by developing and implementing action programs.
- Since a congregation is prepared for its mission in the world through its worship and nurture, the worship
and nurture committee would be responsible for all education and training related to mission. Education
in social issues and special training programs for evangelism, stewardship, eldership training, P.M., W.M.S.,
etc. would normally be administered through the worship and nurture committee.
Finance and Maintenance Committee
- Responsible for the functions of the Board of Managers as described in The Book of Forms.
- For most congregations, no change is required in the basic terms of reference as presently laid down. The relationship
suggested above between the Session and the four standing committees are consistent with the provisions in The Book of Forms.
- Present Boards of Managers should be briefed so as to understand their duties as the Committee of Finance and Maintenance
and their relationships to the Session and to the other three committees.
Governance at Parkwood
Parkwood adopted the recommendations of the LAMP Report at its annual congregational meeting January 30, 1972 and the
four-committee structure as outlined above was adopted. Along the way as the need arose, other committees were formed, such as
the Civil and Social Concerns Group which existed in the late 1990's and early 2000's and the Pastoral Care Team formed in 2003,
initially reporting to the congregation under the Worship & Nurture Committee, and in 2004 as a committee of Session. In March
2005 when it became evident that certain committees were overworked the congregation approved a restructuring exercise which led
to the division of the duties of two committees into more manageable parts:
At the same time, taking into consideration a trend towards informality in the broader church, Parkwood adopted the term "team"
to replace "committee" and "team leader" to replace "chairperson" or "convenor". And more recently in 2011 a Personnel Team
was added to assist teams which had staff responsibilities to address them and to be a sounding board for staff.
- Worship and Nurture was split into
- Worship Co-ordination
- Christian Education
- Mission and Outreach was split into
From time to time special teams are formed to meet specific situations, such as Search or Vacancy Committees when a minister
or other staff member leaves, or, as was the case with the building expansion that took place in 1995-1996 and the more recent
building program, a Building Planning Team (the latest created in February 2009). Such teams typically exist while the project is
underway and are disbanded once the projects are completed. There are also a few single-purpose teams formed from time to
time, such as the Leading With Care Team which produced and administers Parkwood's policy for the protection of children,
youth and vulnerable adults, as mandated by the national church, and an Investment Committee formed in 2011 at the recommendation
of the auditors to provide a forum for the review and guidance of the investment policies and investments of Parkwood. The final
team to receive mention is the Budget Team, which comes to life around November each year to receive the budgets of the various
teams and massage them into a church budget to be presented to the annual congregational meeting in February. This team is chaired by
the team leader from Policy & Planning and consists of the secretary of Policy & Planning, the church treasurer, clerk of session,
minister and leaders of each of the other ministry teams.
In addition to the Ministry Teams and other specialized teams mentioned above, there are a few other "positions" that should be mentioned.
Parkwood has a group of Trustees, elected by the congregation, who are responsible for issues related to the legal title for the
church property, etc. The congregation also elects a Treasurer who keeps track of the church finances and an Auditor to
audit the financial statements each year. The Session appoints a number of "officers" who look after specific aspects of its work:
a Session Clerk, Communion Clerk, Memorials Clerk, Roll Clerk, Representative Elder and a
person who oversees its Benevolent Fund. A look at any of Parkwood's annual reports will provide insight into the duties of the
session officers. Information on the duties of the Session Clerk and the Representative Elder can also be found in the Book of Forms
see the Terms of Reference for the teams, clerks, etc.
Governance beyond the local church
Presbyterian churches are ruled by a hierarchical system of church courts, consisting of presbyteries, synods and General Assemblies.
What follows is a brief description of the various church courts. The Book of Forms provides considerable detail on governance beyond
the local congregation - see the chapters on THE PRESBYTERY, THE SYNOD and THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
Local - the Presbytery
In Parkwood's case, the local ruling body is the Presbytery of Ottawa, to which 19 congregations and one mission charge currently
belong (fall 2011). The presbytery meetings are attended by the ministers (called teaching elders) and an equal number of ruling elders
(the "representative elderts", one from each church within the presbytery. Where a church has two or more ministers, each of whom may
attend presbytery, an "equalizing elder" is named for each additional minister so there is always an equal number of teaching and ruling
elders to make decisions affecting the local congregations. Presbyteries operate using a committee structure similar to churches.
The local presbytery meets approximately five times a year to do its business, and its committees meet with about the same frequency.
Regional - the Synod
The regional bodies are known as synods. The synod to which the churches in the Presbytery of Ottawa belong is
the Synod of Quebec and Eastern Ontario; it consists of five presbyteries: in addition to Ottawa (20 congregations in 19 charges),
the Presbyteries of Lanark-Renfrew (21 congregations in 15 charges) and Seaway-Glengarry (27 congregations in 14 charges) in Ontario and
the Presbyteries of Montreal (34 congregations in 32 charges) and Quebec (8 congregations in 8 charges) in the province of Quebec - as of
November 2011. The Synod meets once a year, usually in October, to do its business. It has a small committee system and a "Synod Council"
to manage its business between synods and bring the appropriate business to the synod when it meets. The synod currently meets as a
"commissioned court" with a rotating list of churches in each presbytery commissioned to send representatives to the once-a-year meeting.
In 2011 the presbyteries were represented in the following numbers: Quebec 2 teaching elders, 2 ruling elders; Montreal 7 teaching, 5 ruling;
Ottawa 5 teaching, 5 ruling; Seaway-Glengarry 3 teaching, 3 ruling; Lanark-Renfrew 3 teaching, 3 ruling. The synods rule on regional issues
and are the court of next resort that presbyteries may refer matters to.
National - the General Assembly
The General Assembly is the "annual meeting" of the national church. It meets once a year, around the first week in June. Like the synods,
it is a commissioned court, so a rotating list of churches in each presbytery are commissioned to send representatives. As with presbyteries
and synods there are to be an equal number of teaching and ruling elders attending. Between assemblies an "Assembly Council" does the work
of assembly and prepares business for the assembly to rule on when it meets. This council has broad representation across the country,
again with ruling and teaching elders in equal numbers. The national church offices report to General Assembly and take guidance from it as
to how to do the church's business. The assembly also has a committee structure for organizing its business. The General Assemblies rule on
national issues as well as issues referred to it from congregations, presbyteries and synods.
last updated 23-nov-11