Dear friends in Christ,
It is my first pastoral letter to you, and as I begin to write, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s salutation at the beginning of each of his Epistles (New Testament letters to churches in various places in the 1st century CE), and I will model my salutation after his as I begin ministry with you:
Keith, ordained by the United Church of Canada to a ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral care, and called by the congregation of Marshall Memorial, Ancaster to minister among them. To all God’s beloved in Marshall Memorial, who are called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from the essence of life - the source that creates and sustains all of life, that we are bold to call God.
I have been looking forward to being with you for a long time, and am excited to finally be with you as your new minister. I have been planning for this beginning for the past several months, and look forward to getting to know you and developing a relationship that will become a foundation for years to come.
I come with 33 years of experience as an ordained minister within the United Church of Canada. I have served congregations large and small, rural and urban in London Conference, Maritime Conference and Hamilton Conference; now in our new Regional System, I move from Western Waterways Regional Council to Horseshoe Falls Regional Council. I am a pastor, priest, progressive theologian, creative liturgist, educator, church musician, and a fellow seeker. I am looking forward to sharing all of these skills with you. I pray that Marshall Memorial may be a place that is open to my ministry and to receive what I have to offer. I long to be a companion on the journey with you.
We are in the process of becoming. We have never been here before, beginning a new ministry in the midst of a pandemic. What we will be is yet unknown… but we will be part of creating it as we allow the God-energy to work through us. As we grow together, I am looking forward to sharing with you an expanding theological vision, connecting your life experience with the Is-ness of God – that sacred energy that is pulsing in everything, underlying all of life, connecting all things. That sacredness is in each of us, for the God-energy is already within us reaching out to the world through our lives. How we treat each other with kindness, respect and fairness then becomes our living out of our Christian faith. In the words of St. Theresa of Avila, “we are the hands and feet of Christ”, or as my colleague Gretta Vosper says “how we treat each other is more important than what we say we believe.”
My focus over the first few months of our being together will be on getting to know you and building a relationship of trust as I enter this new pastoral system. To that end, I have a plan: a Mutual Ministry Relationship Initiative (MMRI) designed to build a strong relationship, based on trust and respect; learning the history of the congregation and what things are important to people; learning of emerging needs, and who needs to be listened to. This will all be realized through small group gatherings with me, either in person (at the church or in homes of parishioners) or online, inclusive of all ages with the intention of involving the whole congregation in this process. These gatherings will be designed as a chance to get to know the minister (me) and for the minister to get to know you. I look forward to hearing what brought you to Marshall Memorial, what has kept you here over the years, and where you have experienced Spirit at Marshall Memorial. I also want to hear your fears and your dreams heading into the future. It is my hope that through this process we will move into a deep level of sharing as we develop a relationship of trust that will become the basis for our ministry together over the next several years.
To assist me with this, I want to set up an MMRI team, who will facilitate these events, and who will also be available to meet with me on a monthly basis to reflect on observations and learnings from these experiences. It is my hope that all of this will provide a picture of what is happening below the surface in the congregation and in individual lives.
Here is where I need your help: I am looking for suggestions from you of who would be good to have as part of this MMRI team to make sure all voices are heard. I am looking for people who are able to organize small informal gatherings that will eventually encompass everyone connected to the church. Further, I am looking for people who will be available to meet with me to reflect on experience through the process of this initiative. Please email suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading “recommendation for MMRI team” by Friday, November 5. I will then use this list as a basis for contacting people to see if they are willing to serve in this capacity.
Looking forward to getting to know you and building a mutual relationship.
In solidarity, and toward shalom/Salem
~Rev. Keith Hagerman
Note: I will be working both from the church office and from home, as agreed to in my call. Although I will be available for emergencies all days, I will generally be observing Monday and Saturday as Sabbath days.