“Are we there yet?”
It was about a year ago that I was writing my first newsletter article to you as the newly appointed interim pastor of St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church. What was true then, is still true now, it is an incredible privilege to serve the people of St. Jacob’s in this capacity. As I have gotten to know most of you and been able to participate in the life and ministry of St. Jacob’s, I have come to appreciate your love for one another, your love for the church and your love for a good meal!
We have spent a fair amount of time together working through a few things from the past, a few things that have come up and a little bit of discernment about the future. It has not been easy. I have challenged you to think beyond what you think you already know – to think about God who is “bigger than” the limits we often place on God. As the song goes, “For the love of God is broader / Than the measure of our mind; / And the heart of the Eternal / Is most wonderfully kind.”
This “stretch” of our faith and comfort zones has been in an effort to move us forward as a church – to help the church discern God’s vision for ministry and mission in the next chapter of St. Jacob’s life. I honestly could not be more proud of the congregation and the hard work that continues. I know there are some who feel we should be moving faster than we are; and there are others that feel like we didn’t need to do anything in the first place. A year in “process” might feel too long, but I can assure you that it is not, as long as we are moving forward – and we are!
I will save my list of all that we have been doing for the annual report, but suffice it to say, it’s a lot! Aside from all the little things we have been taking care of related to personnel and the physical plant itself, or some of the bigger stuff like weekly worship and attending to pastoral care needs, we have also been engaged in mission and in our Focus workshops throughout the summer and now into the Fall where we will hope to wrap up this phase of the process very soon.
Not only are we on track and we are making progress, but we are also experiencing healthy transformation and growth in our faith. Still, there is much work to do in our time together. Being adaptable and open to change is mission critical as we move forward. Like any journey, there are bound to be a few detours and stops a long the way. As Dave Gibbons suggests in his book The Monkey and the Fish, “Those who follow Jesus [must] embody fluidity, adaptation and collaboration. It’s what we call the third-culture way. Adaptable to changing circumstances. To challenging cultures. To complex crises and problems. If there’s one quality that matters most to the fate of the church in the twenty-first century, it’s adaptability.”
We have taken some time to ask big questions like, “Who are we? What is God calling us to do in this season? or even questions about “Who has God placed on our doorsteps? What new ministries are we being invited to embrace, not just which ones we have always done?” In trying to answer these questions, we are learning quickly what being adaptable might mean. Some of these questions have been met with excitement, others with mumbling and grumbling. All of that is okay; but as I said a year ago, embracing this time requires each one of us to look beyond our fears and trust in God who is faithful – to be not only patient but also persistent in our discernment and to actively participate in the process.
Are we there yet? Quite honestly, no. We are not “there” yet, but we are well on our way. Let us continue to seek together that which God is beckoning us towards as we take the opportunity to recount our love for God, our love for each other, our love for the church and our love for the people to whom God has called us to serve. It is in attending to the quality of our relationships that we can best prepare for the future when we are not certain of what it will be. However, as people of faith one thing we are certain about is that the future, as does the present and the past – it all belongs to God. The God who calls us – the God who knows us – the God who loves us. By God’s grace and in God’s time, we will get there.
With you on the Journey,