Opening Prayer Deacon
Brother Jesus, we try to pin you down but you’re always on the move. Someone asks, “Where is he?” And we have to admit, “I don’t know.” In the same way, your spirit blows where it will, inviting us on new adventures, urging us into the unknown. Give us courage to step past the edges of our old maps. Give us the resolve to venture with you into the wilderness where angels and beasts make their homes. Show us where to find rest and refreshment on the way. Amen.
Welcome/Benediction Script Lent 2021
Reader One: The Bible says that after Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness where Satan tempted him and angels protected him.
Reader Two: The Bible says that Moses led God’s people on a 40 year journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
Reader Three: The spiritual path leads through the wilderness because the wilderness is where we meet God.
Reader Four: This Lenten season we will follow the examples of Jesus, of Moses, of countless ancestors before us and step into the unmapped and unknown areas of our lives. We will examine our doubts, fears, questions, visions, possibilities, and promises for the future trusting in God to guide us. Let’s prepare our hearts for worship. The adventure begins!
Reader One: Our hearts are rested; our souls stirred; our vision sharpened; our bodies energized. We step into the new week with courage knowing that whatever we encounter, we are not alone.
Reader Two: Go in peace to love God and share the good news of new life in Jesus!
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 2-5-21
As you all hopefully know by now, First Congregational Church of Granby will be voting to approve one of two proposals for moving forward as a congregation: 1) collaboration/consolidation with South Church or 2) downsizing. As your transitional minister I’m clear that the decision is up to the congregation, so I’ve been preparing myself for both outcomes by staying up to date with the latest in best practices. Three resources have come to my attention.
Should we end up deciding to continue on the decline trajectory, I’ve been reading Toward the Better Country: Church Closure and Resurrection by L. Gail Irwin. In case we decide to move toward collaboration/consolidation, I’ve ordered and will be reading Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work by Jim Tomberlin. If either of these books sounds interesting to you I encourage you to get a copy. If you are a podcast listener, I encourage you to listen to the latest episode of the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast (#367 with Jim Tomberlin). You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. The more we have a common understanding of the work we’re facing the more productive our conversations will be.
Just as the path that led us to this place has been made with countless small decisions, so too, the path forward will involve many decisions along the way. My understanding of our decision on February 14 is that either way it’s not the end of the line. It’s simply a way of agreeing as a congregation that we will devote ourselves to pursuing a path in good faith one way or the other. If it’s downsizing, then we will downsize and do our best to figure out what that means for the future of our congregation. If it’s collaboration, we will do our best in good faith to make that proposal work. I’m confident that the GUCCI team has done a good job laying the groundwork for a successful consolidation, but I’m also fairly certain there will be difficult decisions and obstacles to success ahead.
No transition process is perfect. Messy and difficult is the name of the game. But that shouldn’t be too surprising. Life is messy and difficult, and church is just a particular (and peculiar, perhaps) form of life. The good news is that the process doesn’t need to be perfect to be successful! In my experience, the transition processes that have “worked” have worked because the people involved in them wanted them to work. So let’s make our best effort trusting the results to God. 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.”
Holy God, the world is so surprising and we know so little. Outcomes are uncertain. Threats loom. We long to bring peace to our lives, but even our best efforts often miss the mark. We upset when we meant to soothe. Sometimes speaking the truth in love results in an unpleasant reaction. Sometimes our emotions overtake us and we respond in ways that just make the situation worse. With so much beyond our control teach us to rest in your embrace. Within the swirl of events make us steadfast, kind, and compassionate. Amen.
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1-29-21
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column on different models of consolidation. For review, they were: assimilation, satellite, merger/restart, and “ICU.” If the goal of consolidation is to move from a decline trajectory to a growth trajectory, then the satellite and restart models offer the best possibilities. Satellite requires that a growing church “adopt” a declining church and redevelop it as a satellite location. Restart requires that two or more churches relinquish their prior identities in order to merge assets and create a new congregation.
Since that column I’ve done a little more digging for real world examples of some of these models. Below are a few examples and resources for further investigation.
Our Vitality Coach Rev. Paul Nickerson worked with three United Methodist churches that used the Restart model to create Lorrain Lighthouse UMC at a new location. The pastor who took them through this process is now retired but Paul assures me that if we inquire there are some church leaders who could share their experience. Their Web address is https://www.lorainlighthouseumc.com.
Paul also directed me to a United Methodist District Superintendent in West Virginia for information about a three church creative merger that she oversaw. I’ve sent an email and will let you know when I find out more details.
An example of a Satellite/Adoption model consolidation from the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church is Garfield Memorial UMC, which adopted South Euclid UMC. The pastor of Garfield Memorial is Rev. Chip Freed (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Learning from others’ experiences can be helpful for making informed decisions. Check out the Websites and let me know if there’s interest in setting up a call with any of these congregations. We’re not in this alone. Other congregations are successfully navigating transitions and coming out on the other side with a new lease on life!