A Note from Pastor Rob
When I was in seminary, I was told very specifically, "Do not make any major changes in your first year in a church." If you've heard that, you may be concerned given that I'm now a month into my second year here. Relax - the church has more influence on their own direction, much more than the pastor in the Presbyterian church. That said, there are still some changes coming--and hear the good news: there are changes that are not.
I think it's time we admit - there may not be a time when Covid is not. That means we need to acknowledge where we are. We're grieving. We've "lost" a number of things, momentum towards growth, periodically we lose elements of worship, we lose the ability to host events as we would like... and as these pile on top of each other, they dig a hole that we don't think we can climb out of. Hear the good news - the church has always gone through cycles of growth and decline. Yet God, God's Word and the Spirit continue to survive. It may look different - can you imagine what the people who founded this church pre-Civil War might think if they walked into the "new" sanctuary, heard the words in the hymns and saw that there were women listed on the back of the bulletin as ordained leadership? Much less that we were so thankful for the work of the Rev. Dr. Wanda? Blasphemy, but now it's not even much of a thought. We will weather this storm, if we allow Jesus to keep us calm.
I had to give up some things this year. I've always heard/believed that the "problem" churches had was a refusal to embrace technology. In the past year, we started and stopped online-only Wednesday Worship, a current-events class, and Wednesday Night in-person fellowship because none of those were the right thing at the right time. The online-only devotionals received less attention than the Wednesday worship, which received less feedback than the Thursday Updates. So, we could curse the darkness...
Or, we could give thanks for the light. In watching other pages, we figured out that a simple scripture card would garner more attention and more response than a 15-minute video. More people being more responsive to the Word of God--if I kept score, I would put that in a win column. Here is another win: our worship services posted on Facebook Live are watched and rewatched more than those Wednesday offerings (which were shorter). Thanks be to God. The service, the music, the prayers, the people, the proclamation of the Word... are being seen outside the sanctuary. As a long-time pastor, again, another tick in the win column. The website - now linked to our social media - updates every day. Thanks to coordinating with the webmaster, we can now post things simultaneously to our Facebook page and website and soon Twitter and maybe Instagram.
Yes, in the vernacular of the web-wide-world, we could use your likes and shares. Because here is the one immutable, unchanging fact about church life: It's just lipstick on a pig to most people.
Because what really matters is what happens when someone walks into the sanctuary and when they walk out. If no one makes a connection, they won't come back.
I can put all sorts of scripture on the webpage but, if we don't live any of it, then we will not live as a congregation.
Which is why, specifically, I've chosen this slide, posted on our Facebook page last week, and hopefully on our webpage by now, because it represents what you have not changed in my first year of being here (the thanks for things that haven't changed).
The willingness to answer the call to be Christ's heart, hand and voice in our community. One part sanctuary, one part caring for our members, one part serving in the world. If THE story of Christ is key, then the three-act play is written by the church willing to tell the story, live the faith, and share the blessings. Now, my hope and prayer is that never changes.
May God bless you and keep you - Rob