Colleague in the Chair, Clerk of Presbytery, Past Officers of Presbytery, delegates and observers to the 2012 meeting of the Ga Presbytery; Grace, Peace and Love from God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord to you all.
All too soon we have another opportunity to account for our stewardship, affirm our unity and together seek divine direction for our Presbytery. We have cause to thank God for the wonderful opportunity to be of service to His purpose and to be committed to the Church. God has been good to us all and notwithstanding our circumstances, weaknesses, faithlessness and inadequacies, close examination of the sum total of our life and ministry will reveal that God has not abandoned us. It is, therefore, with a spirit of gratitude, humility, of great honour to God and respect to you that I present the Chairperson’s Address to the 2012 Presbytery. This address will touch on the following areas:
- Theme for the year
- 90th Anniversary of Ga Presbytery
- Re-demarcation of Districts
- Strategic Plan for Ga Presbytery
- Zimmermann Fund
- Ga Presbytery Education Fund
- Presbyterian Worship Centre, Legon
- Construction of a Centenary Block
- Development of a privately owned Presbyterian Cemetery
- Some reflections on the Chairperson’s Visits to some Districts
- Children and Youth Week Celebrations
- The Presidential and Parliamentary Elections
- A word of Welcome
- A word of Thanks and a
- 1. Theme for the year
Last year the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana adopted the theme, ‘The Holy Spirit and the Believer’. This year‘s theme still borders on the place and role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and in the case of the Ga Presbytery, the Church. The Holy Spirit is an indispensable partner to the life and mission of the Church. The Church is Divine only because of the place and role of the Holy Spirit. Take this Spirit of God away from the Church and we are finished.
Emphasizing the Holy Spirit over the two years have given us the opportunity to reflect, think and pray about Him and His empowering and life giving influence. This is the Spirit that empowers some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in order to equip God’s people for service in His Kingdom. Besides he gives more grace in the areas of serving others, healing the sick, performing miracles, public speech, speaking in tongues, utterance of wisdom, giving to the needy, expression of faith, showing mercy, leadership and discerning the true source of spirits. It is the combined effect of the gifts and the fruit of the Holy Spirit which enables us to discern between the real and the counterfeit. We know that it is not only our spiritual gifts which determine our faith and standing in Christ. It is more the fruit we bear that testify to our faith in Christ. ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ so says our Lord. One cannot claim to have special gifts from the Holy Spirit and yet have nothing to show as fruits from that same Spirit. You cannot claim to be a Holy Spirit filled Christian when the rottenness and scandals are increasing in your life and Church. In much the same way you cannot be selective of the fruits that the Spirit bears in you. You cannot claim to have ‘love’ but falls short of ‘patience’ or ‘self control’; for just as the gifts should always go with the fruits so also all the fruits of the Spirit must constitute a united whole. I urge all agents and lay leaders in the Presbytery to spend time to teach their members the importance of the fruits of the Spirit and why it is necessary to use the fruits as the main measure of true Christian spirituality.
- 2. Ga Presbytery’s 90th anniversary
At the 39th Presbytery meeting held last year (2011) it was decided that we should celebrate, in a modest way, the birthday of the Ga Presbytery. 90 Years ago, God moved the then Presbyterian Church of the Gold Coast to create a Presbytery known then as Ga-Adangme Presbytery. Forty years ago and by a decision of the then Synod, a new Presbytery, Dangme Tongu was carved out of the existing Presbytery. Since then our Presbytery has existed as the Ga Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
On this auspicious occasion, we salute the founding mothers and fathers and all who have nurtured the Presbytery up to this point. They founded the Presbytery on Christ and He has been our help along the way. Our Presbytery is recognized as the first among equals. We are the ‘Mercedes benz’ of all the cars. In just everything, they all want to be like us. They keep changing their ‘models’ just to look or appear like us.
We thank God for all the resources available to our Presbytery; the most important being the human resource. We celebrate our multi-ethnic mix, albeit sometimes, in challenging ways. We call ourselves the ‘Rainbow Presbytery worshipping the Rainbow God’. We are willing to express our worship of God in the diverse ways he has created us. Our policy of using more than one Ghanaian language at congregational worship services is still in force. And we will want all agents to adhere strictly to this.
We congratulate ourselves not because we have achieved so much within the 90 years, but because the Lord has not abandoned us and there are new signs that He is very much interested in us today, as was the case at the very foundation of our Presbytery. In this anniversary time, therefore, we celebrate the Lord.
I wish to thank all Districts for participating actively in the celebrations so far. We thank all generational and special interest groups, especially the Children Service, Junior Youth, the Young People’s Guild, the Church Choir and the Singing Band for being there for the Presbytery.
In the same vein, we will never forget the dedication and commitment of the 90th Anniversary Planning Committee under the able leadership of Rev E. Kissiedu-Ayi, a past Clerk of Presbytery. We salute and appreciate them for organizing the celebrations.
- 3. Re-demarcation of Districts
I am happy to report that we have started the process of updating the document on the re-demarcation of Districts in the Ga Presbytery. We are grateful to the Rev Dr. Nana Opare Kwakye’s Committee that worked on the document. As guide to its work, the Committee used as parameters, among other things, the historical antecedents of the Congregations and Districts, geographical area and accessibility from the existing District head stations to its constituent Congregations. What we have in our hand is a working document which needs further fine tuning as we go along into the future. In line with the recommendation of the Committee and after due diligence, Presbytery Council has recommended to the General Assembly Council the creation of an Oyibi District with head station at Oyibi in the Ga East Mission Field. I am happy to inform you that this request has been granted and before the close of the year, a new baby District would be born to the Presbytery.
I will want to take this opportunity to restate that the concept and practice of a Presbyterian Church District is not a promotion for one Congregation. A District is not formed out of one Congregation; it is constituted by two or more Congregations within a geographical area. Besides, creation of Districts is meant to give opportunity for intensified mission and evangelism within a given area. What this means is that some Congregations, in spite of their leverage, the size of their membership and the resources available to them may never spearhead pastoral Districts because of their nearness to already existing head stations. Ga Presbytery will maintain this basic principle and apply it in full for the exercise.
- Strategic Plan for Ga Presbytery
You will recall that the administration of Rev. Prof. David Kpobi initiated the preparation of a 5 year Strategic document for the Presbytery. The document which covered the period 2007 to 2011 has largely been implemented. Admittedly there are a few areas that need to be worked upon further. We are grateful to all those who were involved in the drawing up of the document and its implementation.
In order to pursue an agreed agenda and ensure continuity in leadership and programmes, the Presbytery will in the next one month put a team together to assist the Presbytery leadership review our performance in implementing the old strategic document and the outcomes of the activities pursued under it. The team will further be tasked with the responsibility of preparing a new 5 year document to give direction to Presbytery. This plan should be fashioned in consonance with of the national Strategic Plan of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana General Assembly so that we fulfill our mandate as an integral part of the Church. I expect that the team will consult extensively before preparing their final document. The content of the document should, therefore, be acceptable for implementation by the whole Presbytery.
A Fund was set up many years ago to support the training of ministerial students from the Ga Presbytery. In the mid 1970’s two very brilliant young men benefitted from this fund and have, since their graduation, been playing wonderful roles in the life of Ga Presbytery and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana as a whole. Over the years a few others have also benefitted from the fund. I am happy to report that presently, one SMT candidate who will be completing his studies this year, is being supported fully by the fund. I wish to request Presbytery to formalize the establishment of this fund and agree to make annual budgetary allocations to it. In addition I propose that the scope of operation of the fund should be expanded to include support for research projects, pastoral and congregational studies that have relevance and bearing on Church life and Ministry in the Ga Presbytery.
- Ga Presbytery Education Fund
When it comes to the provision of formal education, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana has been known to be a leader in Ghana. From the very early missionary era, in the then Gold Coast, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana has established and managed schools from the Kindergarten to the Tertiary level. Very recently the Church has entered into the provision of University education with campuses at Abetifi, Akropong Akwapim, Asante Agogo and lately, Tema in the Ga Presbytery. The Church has espoused the belief that education is an integral part of her mission work.
It is also a fact that while the Government of Ghana is making some effort to cater for the needs of the educational institutions, much more support is needed from all stakeholders. Last year the Presbytery took a major decision tasking all the 28 Districts to select one Basic School each year in order to support them and report accordingly to Presbytery. Presbytery would be interested to know how far this directive has been adhered to.
As a long standing partner in education and in the spirit of the Church’s philosophy of education, the Ga Presbytery Council has set up an Educational Endowment Fund to resource the five Presbyterian Senior High Schools in the Presbytery on a regular and sustained basis. This decision was also informed by the weak academic and physical infrastructural conditions in our institutions. The fund will cover such areas as inadequate classrooms, lack of accommodation for key staff, poor washrooms and sanitation, lack of good libraries, ICT and ill equipped libraries among others. A Fund Management Committee, under the leadership of Rev. Prof. David Kpobi, a past Chairperson of Presbytery has been set up to administer the fund. I can report that within eight months of its operations an amount of 50,000 Ghana Cedis had been lodged into the accounts of the fund. We need your prayers and support to succeed with this initiative.
- Presbyterian Worship Center, Legon
Ever since I took office as the Chairperson of the Presbytery I have never hidden my intention to start an innovative and exciting English-speaking Congregation in the Presbytery. This will be a Presbyterian Congregation, in the true sense of the word. It will be Reformed in orientation and therefore, permitted to add on or take away from the traditional Presbyterian Church of Ghana Congregations. This Congregation will be an attempt at organizing a Ghanaian Presbyterian Congregation in another way. I am happy to inform Presbytery that after much prayer and waiting on the Lord and in consultation with relevant stakeholders at Presec, Legon, our English–speaking only Congregation will start on Pentecost Sunday, 27th May, 2012. Initially the Congregation, which will be under the supervision of the Ga Presbytery Council, will worship in the Assembly Hall of Presec, Legon and will pastorally be managed by the School Chaplain, to be assisted by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana Minister responsible for Campus Ministry in Accra and one other attached minister. I wish to request for the best wishes and the prayerful support of the entire Presbytery.
- Construction of a Centenary Block
In ten years time, 2022, Ga Presbytery will be a hundred years. While it is too early to start dreaming of the event, I wish to propose that this is the time to plant the seed of what will be a much smaller block to be adjoined to the Jubilee House, Kuku Hill, Osu. It is my submission that work on this block should start soon and be ready for dedication in ten years time. This envisaged block, which has been on the drawing board for some time, will house units like the Micro Finance Project, a Property office and other relevant offices of the Presbytery. I further wish to suggest that funds for the new block should be gotten primarily from internally generated sources of the Presbytery, with some support from the Districts.
- Development of a Privately Owned Presbyterian Cemetery.
It is an understatement to say that we are sitting on a time bomb when it comes to the development and management of cemeteries in Accra and Tema. The early missionaries invested in cemeteries by acquiring tracts of land for that purpose. Coming from their Pietistic background, the cemeteries served as “God’s Acre’ where Christians had their final rest. Somehow and for some strange reasons, today’s Districts and Congregations have not invested much in land for the development of cemeteries. Today the Abokobi and Osu Basel Mission cemeteries are the only ones available. Of late the sheer pressure on the few public cemeteries in Accra and the disorderly management of such places of rest should challenge us to rethink our position on the issue.
To go round the problem some Church members have started examining the possibility of resorting to cremation. While this is not the platform for debate on the subject of cremation, I wish to propose that Presbytery should mandate the Council to come up with a think tank that will examine the proposal for the possible acquisition of a parcel of land for a privately run and managed Presbyterian cemetery in the Presbytery.
- Chairperson’s Visits to some Districts
In the course of the time that I have been in office, I have paid official pastoral visits to six Districts in the Presbytery. This programme enabled me to visit almost every congregation in those Districts. I have challenged myself to visit every Congregation and Preaching Point in the Presbytery before my tenure ends. I am grateful to District Ministers and other agents who have always facilitated such visits.
From the visits I can share a few thoughts with you:
- i. The Position of the Second or Assistant Minister
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana takes the designation and responsibilities of her agents very seriously. The Constitution of the Church provides for the position of a District Minister who is also the minister responsible for the Head station Congregation. Of late a rather disturbing phenomenon seems to have crept into our Church. This is the strange notion that a District Minister is only responsible for the general pastoral management and coordination of the entire District and that the Second Minister is responsible for the head station. This is not Presbyterian and is alien to our practice as a Church. I wish to emphasize that Second Ministers do not have a direct charge; they are Assistant Ministers and therefore assist the substantive minister for the Congregation; they are assigned responsibility by the substantive and report to him. It is for this same reason that Second Ministers or Assistant Ministers are not inducted to a charge but introduced to the Congregation by the District Minister.
- ii. Lap Top Computers for Agents
We live in an Information, Communication and Technology age today and it is now redundant to argue that computers assist in the management and administration of institutions, including Congregations. With them ministers are better able to organize their teaching materials, preaching plans, Sermon outlines and prepare their visitation schedules. It is no longer a luxury to own Lap Tops; this is why I wish to request this Presbytery to direct that all Districts should buy Lap Top Computers for the use of their District Ministers. Last year a workshop group recommended that this be done by all Districts. I am reliably informed that some Districts have already done this and I wish to congratulate them for their foresight and interest in the work of their Ministers. It should be compulsory for all districts to equip their District Minister with Lap Tops.
I also wish to suggest that Congregations, which are able, should do same for all other agents. I further advise that since, generally, the life span of a Lap Top is about four to five years Districts and Congregations should plan to replace them every four or five years.
This also implies that our Ministers would have to be knowledgeable with ICT usage and how best to apply it for ministry. You will recall that in 2010, the Jubilee Forum organized a session on the relevance of ICT for ministry. As a follow up, I wish to direct Presbytery Department of Human Resource and Administration to arrange a systematic computer training programme for all agents in the Presbytery.
- iii. Resourcing the Ga West Mission Field
During the third quarter of last year, I visited ten Congregations within the Ga West Mission Field. On all occasions I was accompanied by the Field Coordinator, Rev Ebenezer Akrong. I thank God for the foundation of this unique ministry in the Ga Presbytery. The Pioneer Coordinator and all those who have come after him deserve tons of praise for planting the missionary seed and nurturing the Congregations and Preaching Points up to this day. Today we have 39 Congregations and Preaching Points in that pastoral area. Pastoral coordination has, therefore, become very complex and more tasking. But I thank God for the zeal and determination of the current leadership of the Mission. It is doing its utmost best and Presbytery would need to do more to complement it by facilitating its work in every way.
It is in partial fulfillment of this admonishing that the Ga Presbytery Council, at its February meeting, decided to raise a supplementary budget this year in order to replace the official vehicle of the Ga West Mission Field. I must say that the old Tata vehicle was lost to the recent flood in Accra (an act of God) hence the need to buy a new one. Admittedly this should have been handled administratively but because there will be the need for a supplementary budget I will appeal to this Presbytery to affirm the decision of Presbytery Council.
- Children and Youth Week Celebrations
At the Tarkoradi General Assembly held in 2010, a decision was taken to abolish generational week celebrations in the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Effective this year, therefore, Departmental weeks are being celebrated by all Congregations of the Church. The main reason adduced for the abolition was the decongested annual almanac. One is not however sure how effective this decision has decongested the almanac and how beneficial the decision has been; but that will be the subject for debate at another time.
For our purpose today it is obvious that the decision to celebrate Departmental Week at the expense of Generational celebration could best be described as political correctness on the part of the General Assembly. How can we justify a whole year without children’s week or youth week or how do we affirm the place of children, youth and women in the Church? Perhaps the adult groups can find alternative means of rallying their membership and raising funds to pursue their Christian Education agenda. The same cannot be said of the Children’s Service and the Youth of the Church. With rapid social changes in our society and the challenges of living in a metropolitan area, this is more the time we need to emphasize Children and Youth Ministry. This is good for our context and no decision of the National Church should deny our Congregations of this.
This is why I wish to invoke our Presbyterial autonomy under the General Assembly system of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana to request this august meeting to agree with me to introduce a Ga Presbytery-only Children and Youth Week celebrations. This will however be in addition to the celebration of General Assembly mandated departmental weeks. I wish to propose that a Ga Presbytery Children’s Week be celebrated in March and a Presbytery Youth Week should be celebrated in August. Proceeds from the celebrations should be shared as follows:
70% to Congregations, 10% to Districts and 20% to Presbytery.
12. The Presidential and Parliamentary Elections
Come December this year, Ghanaians will be going to the polls to elect a President and members of the National Legislature. We all have to thank God for this wonderful opportunity to exercise our franchise once again. This is not only a civic duty but a sacred social responsibility. My advice to all is that we should endeavour to elect only those who will be seeking the common good rather than be concerned with their personal economic self advancement. The Ghanaian voter should look beyond himself to the wider need of the entire nation. Let us vote only for those who will use their positions wisely, offer inspiration and encouragement to the Youth and Children of Ghana. Whichever party ends up forming the government in January should learn to govern above its parochial interest. They should be people who will be ready to honour the responsibility that would be entrusted into their hands.
As a Church we should pray hard so God will grant to all politicians and party faithfuls the gifts and talents they need to run the campaign and elections; wisdom, courage, tolerance, dedication, integrity, vision and humility.
A Word of Welcome
I welcome all Agents who were transferred into the Presbytery at the beginning of this ecclesiastical year. It is my prayer that you will join the fellowship of ministers in this enviable ‘Rainbow’ Presbytery. We recognize the gifts and abilities with which you have come to us and pray that you share these with colleague ministers as well as use them to enrich your ministries. Ga Presbytery demands nothing short of loyalty, hard work and cooperation from all Agents and I hope you will all fall in line. On the other hand I can assure you of my preparedness to accompany, support and partner you in all your ministerial endearvours. You can also count on the unflinching support of the Presbytery Council.
If we have achieved an iota of success for the Lord, it has been because we have stood on the shoulders of giants. I thank all past Chairpersons and Clerks of the Presbytery who, with a positive spirit and goodwill, have accompanied and advised us even before we have asked for them. My gratitude also goes to the Clerk of Presbytery for ably assisting me in running the affairs of the Presbytery. The cooperation of all District Ministers must be lauded. The Directors of the various Departments have supported the coordination of the life and ministry of the Presbytery. Conveners and Members of the various Committees and subcommittees of Presbytery have really worked hard to keep the flame of the Presbytery burning. The real unsung heroes however, remain the Staff at the Jubilee House. These Committed men and women have at all times given their best to make the engine of the Presbytery continue to run.
For all those who continue to pray for us and for our families, offering advice and wishing us well in our work I thank you and bless God for your commitment to the Presbytery.
- 15. Conclusion
Finally,”… as the dew falls in the morning,
So may the grace of God descend upon us.
As the Sun bathes all in its life-giving light,
So may the radiance of Christ shine in our hearts.
As the wind blows where it will,
So may the breath of the Spirit move freely in our lives.
May God work in us and with us and through us to His glory.”
Thank you for your audience and may God bless you all.
Rev Dr. G. Nii-Noi Odonkor
Kuku Hill, Osu
23rd April, 2012