It is a strange time for a pastoral transition. A few of my pastor friends have called the last several months in the life of the Church, Covidtide. And indeed, the pandemic has marked this season of church life. We have been kept from gathering and our services have moved online. Even as we plan to reconvene for corporate worship as we know, it will be different. For the moment, our bishop and conference has constricted our large gatherings to outdoor worship, with masks and social distancing and no singing. This will be quite different from the church you gathered in, way back in mid-March. And on my first couple of Sundays with you, we will be worshiping online again, and so you will meet me, but I will not have met many of you.
But Covidtide is not a season on the Church’s Calendar. When our cessation of worship began, we were midway through Lent. Then came Easter and Pentecost and now, the season we are in is called “Ordinary Time” or “the season after Pentecost.” I think both ways of marking time are instructive for us. After Pentecost is our Ordinary Time in the church. (more…)
When I was in high school, one of my favorite singers was Joni Mitchell. She had a song, The Circle Game, that was a particular favorite. The refrain was this “they tell you it won’t be long now till you drag your feet to slow the circle down.” I knew it to be true then, but really know it to be true now. I cannot believe we are approaching a year of my being your pastor. It has been a year filled with joy and sorrow, a year that I feel privileged and grateful to have walked with you. Transitions are always filled with joy and sorrow as well.
I will continue to preach and provide communion once a month. While KFFUMC waits for a full time pastor to be appointed, one who would maintain the existing church half time and do a new church start the other half time (very unusual skill set, so this takes time), you will have a quarter time pastor to help you navigate the next phase of your journey. You will hear more from your council about him. Your council will need your help this coming year. Many of them have served for years, and the task of filling those other two Sundays should not fall on just them. You all have wonderful faith stories to tell and share with one another. Stop hiding them under a bushel, lol!
May you trust that God is doing a new thing in your midst, and may you join with God in helping that new thing come to fruition.
From Wikimedia Commons
Citation: Delton Franz Papers, 1952-2000. Photographs, n.d. HM1-012 Box 2 Folder 30. Mennonite Church USA Archives – Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.
Grocery Cards for Families in Need
When the closures due to the Corona virus first started happening, our Crater Lake District came up with a way to help families in need. The District Extension Society offered each church in the district $2,000 to purchase grocery cards that would be distributed to the schools. Here in an email from our District Superintendent, John Tucker, the program is explained:
“The idea for Grocery Gift Cards originated from Leroy Barber as a way of responding quickly to a need in a way that shifts our narrative from being concerned about our own congregations to giving ourselves away to vulnerable people. The cards are meant to empower people and give them the dignity to use the cards as they choose. The school districts are the conduit that gets the cards to qualifying families. We are the generous resource with connections to schools. Schools are the vehicles of distribution. Recipients of the cards control how they are used. This is not primarily about giving free food. Many areas are providing meals but people need other supplies that school districts will not provide.” (more…)
I used to laugh at how my mom (a speech and English professor) would read like three newspapers every morning and tear articles out for her files for students to use when preparing speeches. She also would send me articles torn out that she thought I would be interested in. Today, I continue to open files and find those articles with quick notes scribbled in the margins. And she is right there with me in those times. One such article I recently came across was from the New York Times and its title caught my eye – “Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer.” The article was by a travel writer who had come to realize he was drawn to what the Celts referred to as “thin places” He went on to describe them as “locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever.” These can be buildings, places in nature, experiences with fellow human beings, musical pieces, art, etc. (more…)
Hot Off the Presses!
Our principal at Mills sent an email yesterday titled “Stop the Presses!” We were all poised to start phoning our students at home and procedures changed. My article for this month’s church newsletter has been edited, re-edited, and now I am rewriting it entirely! These are uncertain and strange times we find ourselves in, but as people of faith we need to trust in God. I am not going to tell you not to be afraid, because we all are. But I am going to invite us all to open ourselves to the Spirit, to let the Spirit move and live and breathe in us (I actually think there is a hymn with those lyrics). (more…)
Below my musings you will find the minutes from the council meeting with our district superintendent, John Tucker, held last Friday. I would highly recommend you read through them. John also met with several people not on council to get a good sense of how committed we are to our request for a full time pastor. He came away feeling optimistic about our future. The idea is that he will continue to search for a pastor who would spend 20 hours a week maintaining our current worship service and the other 20 hours a week doing a new church plant (they currently do not have such a critter in our conference, but will look beyond the conference). We are declining in numbers and younger folks are just not interested in how we worship on Sunday mornings. Yes, there are anecdotal examples of young people joining worship services like ours, but all the major research being done says trying to convince young people to join us is fruitless.
We have a flurry of work to be done in the next few months, and once the council has had a chance to review the goals Chrys, Jean, and I worked out with our Rural Church consultant, Lynn Egli, we will get copies of those flow charts to you. We will also begin to ask you to join us in some very specific tasks to prepare ourselves to be a lay led congregation until a full time pastor can be found.
The single most repeated command in scripture is “Be not afraid.” So I invite you to let go of fear, open yourself to the Holy Spirit, and pray, pray, pray for God to send us the pastor who fits with us and our community.
For a copy of the Church Council minutes, please contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.