Pastor’s Page March 2019

27 February 2019

Dear Friends,

This is to inform you that I have received a call to serve as Transitional Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Granby, CT. It turns out there are many more congregations facing what we are facing, and they need help. My last Sunday with you will be March 31, after which I will wrap up some previous commitments including grant-funded training with the Connecticut Conference UCC and an FCC Stamford led Sacred Conversation on Restart at First Church in Windsor, followed by some personal transition time.

I’m feeling very sad, to be honest. We’ve been through a lot together in the past three years. We find ourselves at a place that I didn’t imagine in 2016. But it’s a good place, an exciting place, the place I’m convinced God is calling us to be. There are no guarantees in this life beyond the enduring embrace of God’s boundless love. You know that. Nevertheless you have chosen to step boldly into the land of uncertainty trusting in the power of God’s love. That, my friends, is Christianity, and in my experience, far too few Christians and Christian congregations are willing to do that. So this is the real deal, the true faith, and you are living it. For that I want to honor you and lift you up as witnesses to what is possible in God.

You are not alone. You are not abandoned. You are equipped perhaps beyond what you realize. You are now the experts in restart. You have a plan that you have been successfully implementing. Stick to it. You have leaders like Rob and Jen Godzeno, who have experience with church starts and intuitively know the next steps for success. You have a supportive Regional Minister in Rev. Michael Ciba. You have your restart coach, Rev. Paul Nickerson. You have hired Griffith Coaching to provide professional services for a nationwide restart pastor search that will bring you the most qualified candidates with the best cultural match to this project. Additionally, I have spoken with Rev. Margaret Keyser about the possibility that she can be available for spiritual support during the Silent Period. Your Moderator, Maureen Matthews, is in conversation with Rev. Ciba to address any additional needs the congregation may have. You have a great staff team in Lydia and Andrew who will keep operations running smoothly. You are a well resourced group with access to some of the finest religious professionals in the country and some of the most inspiring lay leaders that I have had the honor of working with.

In the coming weeks we will be going through a process of leave-taking. Please talk to me. Call me up. Email me. Make an appointment. I am here to listen to whatever it is you have to say. I have had a lot of people express interest in our restart process. They are encouraging me to share what we’ve learned together so far. So I’d be particularly interested in hearing your stories and experiences of the journey: What advice would you give other congregations? What worked well? What didn’t work as well? What hopes and dreams do you have? What are you worried about? You are blazing a path that others will want to follow. And for that, I praise God.

Author: toddyonkman

I am a husband, father, author, and Designated Term Transitional Pastor of First Church of Christ in Saybrook (CT).

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