What’s Up with Pastor Todd 2-11-22

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 2-11-22

“I realize that this might seem a little disconcerting. But as I said at the beginning, I’ve found that the most powerful bonds are built when we start with the ending. As your Transitional Senior Minister, I begin with the acknowledgment of impermanence. Every one of us is temporary. It is not up to us to decide how much time we will have. It is up to us to decide how we will use the time we’ve been given. As for me, I vow to make the most of it. What will your promise be? I hope that whatever the future brings, we will face it together.”

I wrote the above words for my column from May 16, 2019–my first “What’s Up” as Transitional Senior Minister at First Congregational Church of Granby. Looking back nearly three years later, it’s easy to see how impermanence has manifested in unforeseen ways. COVID has changed how we do church in ways I never imagined back in 2019. Some of them have been difficult: foregoing in person worship for months at a time has been a particular challenge for me. Some of them have been really great. COVID has made us more visible and engaged in our community. It also jump-started our online ministry. We even welcomed 7 new members during the heart of the pandemic. It’s easy to think of impermanence in terms of loss; however, impermanence is also what creates the space for new things to emerge. The Apostle Paul wrote, “. . . to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish far more than we could ask or imagine.” Through all of the coming and going of impermanence the One at work within us has accomplished things I never imagined, for example, Granby Racial Reconciliation. I had no idea I would have the opportunity to be a part of founding a new racial justice organization in town. Impermanence confronts us with the difficult work of letting go. It also carries within it the promise of new things to come.

At our Deacons meeting this month we took some time to reflect on what God has done among us. “Reaching out in new ways” was at the top of nearly everyone’s list. Another mentioned that “vitality has real meaning for us” as a church. Another mentioned TGIF social gatherings when we could just enjoy each other’s company. Another mentioned a shift in perspective so that we began to consider how newcomers experience our church and how we might do things like worship with first time guests in mind. We learned to question what we are doing as a church and why we are doing it. We’re no longer looking for people to come to us; rather, we are going out into the community and meeting people where they are. We have new awareness of the experience and history of marginalized groups, particularly Native Americans and African Americans, and how that awareness changes what we do as Christians. Weekly Bible study, screens and other technology in worship, staying together and staying safe through a pandemic. These are all accomplishments to celebrate. 

Just as each new beginning starts with an ending, so too each ending carries within it the promise of new beginnings. Our transition work is coming to a close. As we look back at how far we’ve come we can look forward to what God has in store. As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11).

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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