The Presbytery of Arkansas resources and serves as the governing body for the churches in the northern two-thirds of the State of Arkansas. We have over 10,000 members that live from the Mississippi Delta to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. Our members are native Arkansans and people who have moved to our area from all over the world.
We are the fourth largest Presbytery in the Synod of the Sun and consistently support the work of the Synod and the General Assembly through our money and the work of people from our Presbytery. The Presbytery is divided into four regions that bring people together for education, fellowship, and service. Each region has a representative on the Coordinating Team.
We have three Presbytery meetings a year. One of those (the one held in February) is held at one of the two Presbyterian colleges/universities located within the bounds of the Presbytery. The churches are invited to send a Youth Delegate to that meeting to advise the Presbytery on some of its votes and to learn about the working of the Presbyterian system. Our Presbytery has close relationships with the institutions of higher learning and with Vera Lloyd Children’s Home and Family Services.
We have a Coordinating Team that is the visioning arm of the Presbytery. The Team also is charged with doing the “necessary and urgent” work of Presbytery in between the regular meetings. Carrying out the policies and will of the Presbytery is a staff of six people: a part-time Stated Clerk, a part-time Resource Center Director, a volunteer Treasurer, a Resource for Vital Congregations, a Resource for Youth and a full-time General Presbyter and Presbytery and Financial Administrator. Hired by the Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center Board is the Director of the nationally recognized Presbytery of Arkansas Camp and Conference Center, Ferncliff.
Every month church professionals, committee members, and active elders are kept in touch with the activities of the Presbytery by publication of The Banner, the Presbytery of Arkansas newsletter. There people can read about significant events in the Presbytery, the Regions, the Committees, and in the lives of the presbytery leaders, and learn of helpful publications and audio-visual offerings of the Resource Center.
The Presbytery of Arkansas is one of the few presbyteries in the denomination that supports the Presbyterian Women with a line-item in the annual budget. The Presbytery is also very supportive of ministers and educators within our bounds. Ordinarily a retreat for ministers and lay pastors each year brings outstanding theologians and biblical scholars to Ferncliff for three days of refreshment and growth. The Presbytery has a contract with Wellspring Counseling Center that provides six free counseling sessions for active ministers, educators another families. Each year the ministers and educators of the Presbytery are given two free nights for rest and relaxation at Ferncliff.
One support of our small churches comes in the form of a strong Commissioned Ruling Elder (CRE) program. CREs are trained (two-year program) and encouraged to serve in our smaller churches. We are also advocating the use of larger parishes so that a team of minister-CRE-seminarian can serve a group of small churches. Our Future of the Church Ministry Area is working hard to celebrate and to support our small congregations.
The outreach ministry of the Presbytery of Arkansas has earned national recognition. One project was sending five truck-loads of rice (an Arkansas crop) to Liberia to help with the problems of hunger and malnutrition. Ferncliff hosted a camp for the children of mothers who are in prison. In recent years we have held camps for young people who have experienced violence in schools or war. Our close relationship with the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) program has given us the opportunity to be a regional storage center for Church World Services and PDA. We have joined with other denominations in the state to build a chapel at the Tucker Unit Prison.
We have a relationship with the Presbyterian Church in Honduras. Presbytery wide missions trips to Mission trips to Honduras are held annually.
Our youth program is one of the strongest programs of the Presbytery. The Youth Council sponsors junior high and senior high gatherings throughout the year. Special trips are taken to Montreat, Mo-Ranch, and other events. The Presbytery also is involved in campus ministry in different locations across the state and helps support the campus minister at United Campus Ministries at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center is an outstanding partner with the Presbytery. There are motel-like facilities for adult retreats and meetings. The dining room has had a $150,000 face-lift. There are new adventure-camping areas (tree houses and log cabins plus a barn bath-house). The Ferncreek House is available for retreats of 25 or 30 adults/youth, and the first phase of a new camping area for children and youth is complete, including the Christian Activities Building. The new lake is already filled and the welcome center/office is completed.
It is exciting to be a part of the Presbytery of Arkansas and to be about the work that God is calling us to do. We are a healthy and forward-looking Presbytery that is connected to our churches and to the other governing bodies of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Presbyterians affirm that God comes to us with grace and love in the person of Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose for us so that we might have eternal and abundant life in him.