FIVE KEY ISSUES & NEEDS
I don’t know about you, but the past four months since my arrival have flown by! As a
pastor, arriving in a new congregation is typically always a time of change and transition, and this was certainly no exception. There are people and customs and traditions and a whole new community to become acquainted with. Of course, I had a little bit of an advantage coming back home to the community where I grew up, as well as having the chance to renew friendships and relationships with people – both inside and outside the congregation – who knew me back when.
But as I noted back in June, during my call sermon, there is nevertheless a big difference between 1967 and 2017; between when Hope was first founded and today. Some things are still the same, for sure. (And some of the people are still around, as I have discovered.) But so much has changed. And with that change comes the challenge of responding to a brand new reality; even in the church. The original organizational model and ministry strategy for Hope – and for Grace Lutheran Church as well – as effective as they may have once been, back in the day, will no longer be effective. It’s a new day and that necessitates a new way of doing ministry. And that’s perhaps the biggest challenge facing us right now.
In my first report to the Council, however, I further identified what I would call
“5 Key Issues and Needs” facing us at this time. I’d like to briefly summarize them here for you as well.
Besides calling a new pastor, Hope has also seen the retirement of its longtime Office Administrator, and also the departure of the Minister of Music. Besides Cheryl Hurd replacing Wanda, we also have two other relatively new staff members: Stephanie Siino (Bookkeeper) and Kathryn Johnson (Communications Director). Getting us all up to speed and forging an effective team will take some time. And also some patience. But I am very pleased with how things are progressing at this point. As you may have heard, we are also now looking for a new Minister of Music as well, since our first choice unfortunately did not work out. So our music ministry is definitely still in a time of transition which, hopefully will not last too long.
This word refers to “balanced proportions.” The ongoing process of blending the needs of the preschool with those of the church, and of bringing together various groups within the congregation, especially integrating our newer members with longtime members will also take time. And also some intentionality as well. In other words, we have to work at these things. But achieving a sense of unity and common purpose is an important step and goal. Notice, however, that I’m referring here to unity, not uniformity. The balance implied by the word “symmetry” does not mean that these various communities and constituencies within the congregation (preschool, longtime members, newer members, etc.) will cease to exist. Not at all. What it simply means is that they will each make a commitment to trust and respect each other, and then find effective ways to work together for the good of the congregation’s mission and ministry.
We are blessed that finances are currently not an issue for the congregation because of the phenomenal growth and success of Hope Christian School under the direction of Judy Canfield. But financial support from the members themselves, not to mention the offering of time and talents, is also crucial to our congregation’s sustained effectiveness in the name of Christ. In other words, we all
have a part to play. We all have something to give and to offer.
There is certainly a lot going on at Hope, each and every day! I am
continually amazed that we, somehow, find a way to fit everyone in and make it all
work. Nevertheless, addressing our ongoing and growing need for sheer space is
clearly a challenge. The good news is that we are an active and vibrant congregation. The constant challenge, however, is finding a way to make room for all of these worthwhile efforts and commitments, especially as we move forward.
Finally, where are we going as a congregation? What are our priorities? What is, or should be, our unique focus? Going back to my original point, discerning God’s will for Hope in the coming year and beyond, is one of the most critical challenges and opportunities before us. But I have every confidence that we will figure it all out. Most of all, I trust that God will show us the way!
If these first four months as your pastor are any indication, the future of Hope Lutheran Church will be a bright and promising one. But we need to stay grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and rooted in our calling to serve others in his name. Because, quite simply, that’s who we are.
(This month’s article is based on the report I shared at the congregational meeting on November 12.)