August Update: A Few Thoughts

Yesterday, I became aware of a wonderful group of practice that meets on zoom every morning at 9am. It is open to all and I highly recommend it. It is a 20ish minute adapted “office” similar to our Wednesday evening reflection with prayers, silence, psalms, Taize chants and scripture. It is a simply lovely, faithful celebration of ancient scripture.

After the meditation this morning, I was privileged to speak with Andy Lang, who began the group as part of a larger vision to create a Protestant, inclusive version of the Catholic “hours”, again, sort of what we do Wednesdays at 6pm on the common. Andy is joined in this Holy task by Benedictine sisters from Kansas. It never ceases to amaze me how God pulls people together who would not normally meet from every which-way to be part of the growth and expression of the Holy Spirit.

The group is open to all, and I will be attending as often as I can, so please join me!
The zoom link is: 9AM every Thursday.

The pastoral search committee had a meeting Wednesday, July 26th, and although I was on vacation, they found me wandering around the building mumbling about baptism bulletins, and we got to talking. They had decided earlier that it would be helpful to have discussions after church beginning August 13th on a few upcoming Sundays (additional
dates to be provided.)

This search team is working hard and continues to look at how they can best serve the congregation. This brings us to why they would like to have these discussions. They realized that perhaps they need more details from you all to get a better idea of the importance of various issues for congregants. Some of you might be asking yourselves why calling a pastor is so difficult when the previous search squad was able to find the much-loved Reverend Eileen almost immediately. The religious landscape has changed dramatically, and while I realize it is frustrating for folks, (as well as anxiety-producing) I want to say that this group is doing everything they can to represent the entire congregation, and with some of the parameters they are working with being a bit contradictory, their job has proven difficult. I appreciate that they are trying to find the right pastor to meet your needs and goals. Along with this challenging reality, the team’s perception is that there is perhaps an opinion-gap among SCC’s existing members, (as well as a gap between older generations regarding traditional views of religious practices versus the mindset of today’s Millennials and Gen Z) is one that needs to be explored in order to allow them to continue the search for your next pastor.

I can’t stress enough how encouraging and helpful it was to speak with Andy Lang this morning. Andy served as Executive Director for the Open and Affirming Coalition from 2010-2022. I am so often wrong in spite of my best efforts, that I thank God daily for the small amount of humility with which I am blessed. His gives me at least a shot of facing errors, making changes, and moving forward. It is probably the chief factor that gives me any chance at all to grow. I found myself using words like “impossible” as I looked at the ministerial landscape and the varied positions SCC congregants hold (which to me seem mutually exclusive at times.)

Some of you shared honestly with me that, at times, the process of becoming Open and Affirming felt like something was being forced on folks who weren’t quite
“there” yet. There can also sometimes be a sense of being shamed into silence when you don’t agree with a direction the church is taking. The pastor must able to accompany not only LGBTQ folks, but also congregants having a difficult time with change, making transitions on their own terms, rather than having it thrust upon them.

No one should be “rushed” or “pushed” into adopting ONA. Conflict resolution, forgiveness, an invitation to openness for change and perhaps most importantly- that ONA cannot be “imposed” or “pastor-led”, but must be “lay-led” and lived into, or it just doesn’t take.

“Importantly, we need to convey the positive aspects of being an Open and Affirming church, namely that we are ONA not in spite of our Christian Biblical principles, but because of them. Becoming visibly ONA also offers the potential to grow, attracting not only LGBTQ folks, but also Millennial and Gen Z couples who want their children to grow up with traditional Christian values, but who are uncomfortable or with messages of exclusion. More and more families include self-identifying LGBTQ members, and almost every child knows someone from that community, whether it be kids in school, their relatives, or a family member of their own. While we sometimes focus on people who might be driven away by this inclusion, we miss the opportunity to welcome into the “united and uniting” family of Christ, so many whom have been turned away or otherwise harmed by churches, but who still yearn to grow closer to God as revealed through Jesus Christ.

Let us face our fears and honest doubts, inviting Christ to open our eyes to how “more will be revealed.”

Let us go forward not in fear of what we might lose, but in hope of what might be gained, who may be healed, helped, and blessed by this loving community.

You are on track. You’re going to be okay. I believe the right pastor is out there and you’re going to find that pastor by being yourselves, not turning yourselves into a pretzel to fit what might seem attractive to some candidate somewhere. Be honest. Be yourselves. I thoroughly believe as you flesh out who you are, who you hope to be in Christ, and what you need to get there, that God will provide the right pastor.