What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-25-19
The sound of rain on the trees and grass, the smell of moist earth on the breeze drifting through the window screens invites my awarenes to return to just this moment. As I notice the small details of life unfolding just as it is, I’m grateful. Admittedly, this is a pleasant moment when gratitude tends to manifest more easily, but what a gift that we as human beings have this capacity of simple appreciation.
I find that bringing my awareness to the present moment is almost always helpful. It’s easy to get lost in dreams of the past or visions of the future–be they frightening or longed for. Reality almost always turns out to be different from what we imagine.
That’s why after our second Meet the Minister meeting, which we shared this past Monday, I invited everyone gathered in the three season porch on the Wilhelm Farm to bring their attention to the late summer breeze, the patchy sunshine on the concrete floor, and their friends gathered at the table for conversation, cookies, and punch. Not every moment is a crisis. Every moment is potentially a moment to enjoy.
This is so important to remember as we move through this time of transition. We need to know where our help comes from. The Psalmist did. “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” There is a fair amount of grief and anxiety in the congregation right now. There is also a fair amount of hope. Our task in the months ahead will be, among other things, letting go of what once was and trusting that though we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.
I was sharing some of this with the staff. They suggested that having some sense of a plan would help with the anxiety. It’s not up to me to tell you what the plan is. Any plan is up to us to craft together. That’s in part what the Meet the Minister meetings are for. Nevertheless, I can share my general sense of direction at this point. Right now we are working in a 3-5 year timeline. During that time we are going to shift our focus outward toward reaching new people. New people bring new life, new energy, and new hope. We are right now in the process of forming a Vitality Team to lead this effort. At the same time, we will be working through a process of building congregational health. We have already started this work with Meet the Minister meetings and the upcoming monthly Working Lunch program following worship. Additionally, the Church Council is recommending we engage the services of a consultant to help us with the congregational health piece. Finally, we will continue a process of collaboration with South Congregational Church to build relationships and determine whether or not we share a common mission. For now, all conversations about money, pastors, and buildings should be set to the side. Those decisions can be made once we determine whether or not we want to be together. If we discover that we can build a compelling vision for the future together, then we wil make those other decisions based on that common vision.
I know this is very high level and abstract for some, but maybe it will reduce anxiety to know that I and other members of your church family can see a positive path forward. As we move forward, the path will become clearer. And, once again, nothing is set in stone beyond the fact that if we don’t do something to address the decline trend we’re simply sealing our own fate. Tell me what you think. This is just my sense of things based on my conversations with you, with the folks at South Church, and my 23 years experience working with congregations in transition.