Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December Musings

It's December already...I wonder where the year has gone! It seems like only yesterday that I began my ministry as "gathering pastor," charged with bringing together a community of people to be the core group for a new church in the Protestant/Presbyterian/Reformed tradition in the Chain of Lakes area. Out of thirty prospects, twelve have signed on. That doesn't seem like a lot, but they're an enthusiastic, gifted and congenial bunch, committed to the vision that God is doing a new thing. Also, I seem to recall another group of twelve--mentioned in the Gospels--who went on to do great things! So I have to believe it's enough for God's purposes.

Now that the first (gathering) phase is essentially complete, we begin a planned transition to the next (organizing) phase. I'll be departing this month to make way for the organizing pastor, who has accepted God's call to lead the new congregation. He'll begin his ministry in mid-February and, together with the core group, begin to bring the vision to reality. Many things will begin to happen in 2009, so that by this time next year, the church will be worshiping God, serving and bearing witness to God's love in the surrounding community, and actually being a community to one another. Despite its Presbyterian origin, we hope the church won't be defined by its denominational indentity as much as by its faithfulness to God's call to be an authentic community of servants gathered for worship, nurture, witness and service in the name of Jesus Christ, the great Head of the church.

Starting four weeks before Christmas, the church season of Advent heralds the beginning of the Christian year. In this hemisphere at least, Advent is a time of darkness. The light dawns each day as if with labored reluctance, and the shadows lengthen early as the night encroaches upon the remnants of the day. For Christians, it's always been a time of reflection and preparation, of memory and hope, of promise and wide-eyed expectation. During Advent we look for the One who is to come, knowing full well that he has already come and pitched his tent among us, and that he will come again in glory to make all things new.

That can be a comforting message in these days when darkness seems to triumph over light, not only in the measure of our days but also in the travails of economic uncertainty, environmental degradation, ruthless terrorism, the weariness of war and the hungers for sustenance of human bodies and the human spirit. While faith by itself won't solve our problems, it can offer reassurance, as the church's celebration of Christ's nativity approaches, that "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

It's in this broader cultural, seasonal, social and political context that we make the transition to the next phase of this new church. In some ways it may seem trivial by comparison, but in other ways it can be a powerful witness to the light shining in the darkness, to the importance of a community where we can bear one another's burdens and share each other's joys, to God's promise to bring life out of death, and to the reality of God's love for this world and for each one of us.

As I conclude my ministry here, that's my prayer for the core group, for the organizing pastor, for this Chain of Lakes region, and for all whose lives the church will touch in the years ahead. I'm confident that, with God’s continued blessing, this new church will join other established churches in the area in a strong and unified witness to the love that God reveals in Jesus Christ. When it does, I will give thanks for having played a small role in helping it to become a reality.

As I've said in previous posts, stay tuned... There's lots more to come!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor David

Monday, October 6, 2008

We're Moving Ahead!

The pastor nominating committee is well along in the process of identifying candidates for the organizing pastor position. To date, the committee has received and reviewed thirty-six PIFs (Personal Information Forms) from ministers expressing interest in the position. This represents significant progress toward the second, or "organizing," phase of this promising new church development. The goal is to have selected a candidate by the end of the year so the organizing pastor can be on the field in early 2009.

Currently we're nearing the end of the first, or "gathering," phase of this church development vision. Since last January we've sought to lay the foundations by publicizing our efforts in the local community and gathering a group of persons who have sensed God's call to help pull the new church together. The new organizing pastor will work with this committed leadership group to begin growing the new faith community and locating a site where regular worship, nurture and service programs can be offered.

We're excited about how God is opening the way for this new Christian community in the Chain of Lakes area. While we're sponsored by a particular denomination that has a long tradition of mission and service in the name of Jesus Christ, that denominational identity is more about the way we're organized than the ways in which we may choose to fulfill our calling as disciples of Jesus. If you're seeking a community in which to build--or rebuild--a relationship with God and are energized by the challenge of building a community of faith from the ground up, I hope you'll consider joining us on the journey!

Grace and peace,
Pastor David

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Progress Update

The "gathering phase" of the Chain of Lakes New Church Development (NCD) is moving forward. Last month the Steering Committee approved the final draft of a Church Information Form (CIF) as the first step in calling an organizing pastor. The CIF will be available online, including our website, to solicit Personal Information Forms (PIFs) from ordained ministers interested in applying for the organizing pastor position. The Steering Committee will act as the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) to receive and review any PIFs submitted, conduct interviews, select a candidate, and recommend that person to the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. Once the organizing pastor is in place (we hope by mid-autumn, or the end of the year at the latest), he or she will work with the core leadership group that was pulled together over the last few months to discern where the fledgling congregation will gather, begin regular worship services, establish community, and continue to seek individuals and families who feel God is calling them to help start a new church.

The vision is that this new church will be a Christian community of diverse people interested in building relationships, exploring biblical faith, experiencing personal and spiritual growth, and seeking ways in which God might be calling them to relate to their local and global contexts. The church is particularly interested in welcoming those who have little or no church background, or who may have belonged to a church at one time but, for any number of reasons, may have become disconnected from a meaningful church experience.

While the new congregation will be firmly grounded in the Presbyterian/Reformed way of being Christian, it will seek to meet the needs of people where they are in faithfulness to the biblical witness rather than dictating that the church experience should be the same for all. Further, it will encourage the living out of Christian discipleship in ways that are unique to each individual, yet still within the context of a supportive community.

If you think God might be calling you to consider being part of this newly emerging church, I encourage you to contact me so that we can discuss what the promptings of your heart might mean, as well as any questions you may have.

Meanwhile...stay tuned!

Pastor David