If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.
If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
1 Corinthians 12:26 (The Message)
First off, THANK YOU for the amazing and overwhelming surprise on the 15th! I was caught completely off-guard by the celebration you all put together for my graduation and the 10-year anniversary of my ministry here at Marshfield Christian Church. And, catching me by surprise is not an easy thing to do. I think it’s the first time in 27 years of our relationship that Jennie has been able to completely surprise me, especially with something of this magnitude.
It is truly a blessing to be part of this body of faith, where we celebrate together and grieve together. I certainly do not underestimate the importance of your support over the past decade. And I am keenly aware of your prayers and willingness to participate in my doctoral journey as well. In countless ways each of you has influenced me, and the research in church leadership.
During the past few days of celebration with my fellow graduates, a theme developed in our conversations. Many of my colleagues are wondering “What now?” Completing our research, finishing the writing, passing the oral defense, and crossing that stage have consumed so much of our energy and focus over the past four (or more) years. What do we do now?
That answer is different for each of us, I suppose. For me, for Marshfield Christian Church, the answer is that we work together to implement what the research into church leadership has shown us. We continue to strive to be the church God is calling us to be. These are unfamiliar waters for us, however, and that brings with it a certain level of anxiety. We could try this new way of being church, and it may not work. What then? On the other hand, it may just propel us forward in our faith journey…
The future is not clear. I sometimes wonder if the path I am suggesting is the right one for us at this time. That uncertainty brings with it fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Yet, as those fears rise and threaten to choke out the growth of what God has planted among us, I hear God’s voice saying, “Do not be afraid.” And I remember that I am not alone. You all reminded me of that in a profound and tangible way just 10 days ago.
We really are journeying together with God. That makes all the difference!
If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to visit the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Mission First! initiative website at http://missionfirst.disciples.org. (If you don’t do the whole internet thing, give me a call and I’ll be glad to get the information to you.) Sharon Watkins and Todd Adams are leading our denomination to ask some of the same questions we are asking as a church, “How do we best pursue our mission?” There are many ways to keep our mission at the forefront of our minds, and to diligently strive to accomplish all that God is calling us to do. (And become all God is calling us to be.) However, I find some striking similarities between what is happening at the denominational level of our church, what has been happening at the regional level, and what I believe we are called to implement here at the local level.
I would also encourage you to mark your calendars for October 7th and 8th. On Friday the 7th, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins will be speaking at our regional assembly in Springfield. I will have more details as the date draws near, but I would encourage as many as are able to go to hear her speak. She is a gifted and dynamic speaker, and she will be sharing with us the plans and process for Mission First. Then, on Saturday, we will be holding a Mission First Gathering in Springfield. This is an opportunity for your voices to be heard in this process. Not everyone will be able (or willing) to give up your Saturday, but I would encourage you to prayerfully consider taking part in this process. I truly believe it can be transformative, not only for the denomination, but for our congregation, and even for us as individuals. As I get more information, I’ll be sure to pass it along to you.
Again, thank you for the celebration, the stories, the cards, and the gifts. I am humbled, and honored, to be called to serve as the pastor of such a loving and thoughtful congregation.