"Often they say 'thanks but no thanks,'" he said of others who have turned down the position. "But it is an honor and something I wanted to do, my arm was not twisted."As moderator for the city's Presbyterian community, Brewster's primary responsibility is to guide agendas and cool tempers at the five meetings where ministers and elders from the 99 churches across the boroughs gather to discuss the status and direction of their denomination."The meetings are a challenge," he said, citing past heated debates on finances, service programs and whether to close a flailing church. But despite the frustration at times, Brewster, who when not fulfilling his moderating duties heads the First Presbyterian of Forest Hills on 112th Street, reveled in the unique idea of a religious democracy."All that's done by a bishop in Catholicism is done by everyone in the Presbyterian system," he said, since every one of the 120 or so delegates at the meetings was elected by their congregations. Aside from refereeing, Brewster's position also allows him to travel to churches throughout the city as a guest pastor -- the real reason why he took the job.On April 3, he led a service at a Riverdale church in the Bronx. Next Sunday he is visiting one in Jamaica. After visiting about 30 churches, from Rivertown to Newtown, the seasoned pastor found one commonality: they all have flavor.At the primarily black First Presbyterian of Jamaica, which Brewster called "the strongest church in Queens," there were "a lot more amens and hallelujahs in the service," he said. In a church in St. Albans and Brooklyn, a four-person band replaced the organ.Other churches would perhaps devote more time to Scripture reading or "passing the peace" through handshakes in the pews.But most seemed to have evolved together recently, he said, by putting more emphasis on relaxed congregational leadership rather than windy, high-pulpit sermons.Brewster said he will suggest to his own church's 150 members some successful service tactics he witnessed on his travels -- incorporating more multicultural music as he saw in the Sudanese Nubian dancers at a church in Brooklyn, for instance, or a better method of taking prayer requests such as in Riverdale. He returns to his congregation full-time on May 17. On that day, Brewster will moderate his last meeting at a Fifth Avenue church in Manhattan, and afterward pass on the torch to Associate Pastor Oscar McCloud."He asked me if my term could be extended," he said with a laugh. But Brewster admitted to missing his own congregation, which he has seen only sporadically since August. "It's been a great gig. I've gotten to see our Presbyterian process in a much wider way. But one year is just fine."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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