“If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims!” In our house, a certain percentage of every morning is devoted to punning. My husband loves paronomasia (fancy shmancy word for puns) and the rest of us roll our eyes. But secretly, we would miss this dreadful ritual…maybe.
I think that every transitional church, whether a congregation in the midst of the renewal process or one following the more traditional path of search and call, experiences a bit of fatigue…and a teensy bit of eye rolling, as the space increases from one settled pastor to the next. It can be helpful to revisit the value of this “in between” time.
“What is God’s dream for the future of Faith Lutheran?” These are words that introduce the renewal process in a document left by Pastor Mark. What an excellent question! Renewal congregations are historically strong and vibrant churches that are experiencing a shift. The retirement of a pastor of long standing, who loved and was loved by this gathering, would definitely qualify. Where is the Spirit at work transform- ing individuals and ministries? How is God still speaking to the members and friends at Faith?
Those are the BIG questions. Year One hones the focus – who are these members and friends? What is their relationship to God and one another? You held cottage meetings and asked: What is your faith story? Why is Faith Lutheran important to you? What are your dreams for this congregation? Individuals interested in learning and leading became a Renewal Team. The initial members were: Joanne Sampson, Lynn Dhein, Libby Gilberston, Erica Minkevicius, Carl Simons, Michelle Hoffmann, and Lucas Simons. I just finished reading the Lenten Devotional Book that emerged from this team with the contributions of other members and staff at Faith. Wow! It is exceptional. It is the integration of personal story with a deep understanding of God’s presence. It comes from people who have and continue to be nurtured in this loving Christian community. The challenge? How do we encourage and embolden other members of Faith to give voice to their rootedness?
Year Two expands on who you are by asking what do you do? What are the gifts and assets of this congregation? And if we discern who we are and what we do, where do we go from here? The concept of “I notice and I wonder” is introduced, as well as scriptural grounding – how is God’s story our story? Four passages surface: the Book of Ruth and the story of commitment and faithfulness, the Walls of Jericho that came tumbling down, bringing the God of Israel to a new place, The story of Lydia, who builds a faith community out of her home, and the story of the mustard seed, that grew into a large refuge for others. The book “Holy Currencies” by Eric Law is studied, providing insight into a deeper level of stewardship that goes beyond money. A generosity team forms comprised of Sharon Bradish, Jeanne Jones, Pam Larson, and Jim Schieble. The renewal and generosity teams work together to link the who with the what and the how.
Now we are in Year Three. As students of Luther’s small catechism might ask, “What does this mean?” Again, from Pastor Mark’s planning document, “The final year of the process focuses on putting the gifts of the congregation into action for the sake of the world.” In my own words, what are Faith’s best kept secrets and how do we shout them through the streets so that other’s might experience the friendship, care and challenge found at 120 Faith Drive, Columbus Wisconsin?
One of my favorite hymns is, “Have No Fear, Little Flock”. The line I love is fitting for both this third year of renewal AND the Thanksgiving holiday. “Thankful hearts raise to God; thankful hearts raise to God, for he stays close beside you, in all things works with you; thankful hearts raise to God!” These years of discernment are not wasted – nothing ever is when we work with God as our partner. The culmination of Year Three is the development of the Ministry Site Profile – the document that will begin the search and call process for Faith. This is not just a numbers form. The MSP (ministry site profile) asks deep questions about the ministry and mission of the congregation. Another team will be formed – a call committee. The seeds planted and sprouted in year one, watered and fertilized in year two, will be harvested as year three concludes. This is essential as clergy candidates consider a call to be Faith’s next settled pastor and the committee, benefiting from the fruits of your hard work, consider the pastoral partner that best fits where Faith is headed the next five, ten, indeed fifty years!
So have no fear Faith! When the floods of uncertainty wash over you, have no fear! I Noah guy (groan).
Rev. Beth Voigt, Renewal Pastor Faith Lutheran Church