Presbyterian churches derive their name from the ‘Presbyterian’ form of church government, which is government by representative assemblies of elders. In each Presbyterian Church there are two types of Presbyters: the first is the Teaching Elder who is also called preacher, evangelist, teacher, pastor or minister, and is commissioned to preach God’s Word, to administer the sacrements as well as to instruct the people, in addition to the oversight of the Church in conjunction with the Ruling Elders. The other is the Ruling Elder who is elected by the congregation and appointed to watch for souls and to exercise government and discipline in conjunction with the Teaching Elder.
In a Presbyterian congregation, all matters of doctrine, discipline, worship and order are the responsibility of the Kirk Session. The role of the Session is “to work together with the minister in the oversight and governance of the congregation, for the up building of God’s people in spiritual fruitfulness and holy accord, and for the extension of Christ’s kingdom.”
Session meetings are ‘representative assemblies’ or courts of the Church. There are two other similar courts within PCI which are Presbytery and the General Assembly. Knock’s Session is accountable to the Presbytery for its leadership and oversight of the congregation, and East Belfast Presbytery is then accountable to the General Assembly.
The Kirk Session’s role is to:
- look after and promote the spiritual interest of the congregation, and of persons not connected with any congregation who are within its bounds;
- ensure a scheme for pastoral care is in place in the congregation,
- seek to further the contribution of the Church to Christian witness and service in the local community;
- approve such measures of practical co-operation with other Churches as may involve the life and work of the congregation.
The Congregational Committee at Maze Presbyterian Church consists of members of Session together with approximately 17 members elected from the congregation. Elections are held as requested by Session which is normally every three years. The committee is responsible for the temporal affairs of the congregation as outlined in Presbyterian Church in Ireland Code.