In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, many presbyteries and congregations did not have in place rules allowing for meetings to be held virtually. That was the case in the Presbytery of Redstone where they had to hold a drive-in meeting in order to enact revisions in the presbytery manual permitting greater flexibility regarding meeting conduct and quorums. What follows is a short synopsis of this procedure as written by the Rev. Skip Noftzger, executive presbyter and stated clerk, of the Presbytery of Redstone.
What do you do when you are trying to follow the guidance of distancing and in-person gatherings AND you have a presbytery meeting coming up? One option is to cancel or postpone the meeting, but without knowing how long it might go on, can we afford to keep “treading water” or is there a better alternative? Like everyone else, the move toward videoconferencing (Zoom) seemed the likely alternative not only for the short term, but going forward.
Yet, the Manual of Operations defined the meeting and quorum of the presbytery based upon assumptions of personal presence. So, what could we do? Working within the expectations of that Manual and Department of Health guidance, a “called” meeting of the presbytery was initiated for the parking lot of the presbytery. Making it clear that participants would come and park for the “drive-in” gathering (and stay in their cars). The moderator, the executive presbyter and the associate stated clerk greeted those who arrived (from six feet away) as the group assembled. Called for this special purpose of revising the Manual, the meeting was conducted over an FM frequency with members voting by extending their arms out the windows (well, if truth be told, some honked as well).
There was a history of using Zoom videoconferencing already within the presbytery for smaller groups, but it had not been considered for the presbytery assembly meetings. In Redstone, thanks to a grant from the Synod of the Trinity, technology has become a vital part of connecting all of our standing committees, task forces and subcommittees. Operating in a hybrid environment of both in-person and virtual connections, these groups have been functioning this way for a couple years. So, when the need became clear this format should be made available for the entire presbytery, not only for the immediate need, but going forward, it was time to take action.
As presbyters drove in, many were happy just to see one another even through their side windows of their cars. As a presbytery, we accomplished what was needed to be both “decent and orderly” and prepared for our May 19 meeting and many meetings to come. Although short-lived, it was a fun way of getting together and getting it done. Next time, perhaps we can have a “double feature” and show a movie at the end (just bring your own popcorn😊).