Woolastook Presbytery derives its name from the Maliseet name for the St. John River (“Wolastoq”: Beautiful River). The St. John River is the longest river in the Canadian Atlantic region (673 km). Beginning in the northern part of the American state of Maine, it flows through the province and is the boundary for many communities, large and small.
Woolastook Presbytery is one of 13 Presbyteries and one synod (in Bermuda) that make up the Maritime Conference of The United Church of Canada. The Maritime Conference covers the three Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) most of the southern part of the Gaspé Peninsula in Québec, and Bermuda.
Woolastook Presbytery has within it 30 pastoral charges, all in New Brunswick. The Presbytery boundary extends from Edmundston and Plaster Rock in the north to Gagetown and Grand Lake in the south, and from Doaktown in the east to Harvey and Centreville in the west.
Woolastook Presbytery came into being in 1970 when the former Woodstock Presbytery and Fredericton Presbytery were combined.
The Presbytery’s membership includes all United Church ministry personnel who reside within the boundary: those in pastoral relationships with pastoral charges, those who serve as chaplains to the military in CFB Gagetown or in pastoral care in hospitals, those who are retired (some of whom still serve as appointees in pastoral charges) and those who have permission to take on other work.
The membership also includes all lay representatives, one per congregation, or – in larger congregations – one for every 250 church members. Additionally, there may be up to ten lay members at large, appointed by Presbytery when such persons take on specific offices or roles.
The United Church of Canada has what is known as a “presbyterian” style of government. This is distinct from an “episcopal” style of government, which has bishops. The Presbytery is responsible for many of the functions of a bishop, including oversight of pastoral charges or congregations, and oversight of ministry personnel. In their turn, presbyteries are overseen by Conference.