Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack -- November 2004 "The Church Window"

Not so very long ago (as stories nowadays seem to start), most everybody had jobs from 9 to 5 somewhere nearby, had dinner at 6, watched their news at 6:30, and on Sunday went to church past closed stores at 10 or 10:30, where all the cars on the streets were going.

And now today: work schedules vary from week to week, shift to shift, food on the fly, news on demand 24/7, and church . . .

These have been interesting times to serve as a parish pastor. Even shut-ins are often out, let alone finding families together. Ministry has always been an on-call calling, but for all of us in congregational leadership, from home communion by the elders, trying to catch new visitors at home, to when to hold women’s fellowship meetings -- the needs, demands, and expectations of church scheduling have expanded far beyond even 24/7. This is not a Hebron thing, it is an everywhere thing.

With my service as pastor coming to an end shortly, I leave knowing that we have navigated the turbulent waters of a time of change very well in some ways. Bright spots include the clearing out and opening up and better use of the lower level of the main building, and expansion of Sunday school into the old parsonage, with the improvement of the office space there as well; the vitality of the summer early service; the capital campaign securing the property to our east and the organ campaign for our sanctuary, plus pew Bibles. Lenten efforts to deepen faith through reading the Bible and sharing “The Purpose Driven Life” were well received, and our youth continue to be an example for all of us in witness and service, on 5th Sundays and beyond. Darker spots, but a valley of shadow we must all travel through, have been the many, many funerals we have shared together, looking to the Light that guides us. There is work that is unfinished in strengthening marriages and combating addictions of many sorts that will, that must continue.

Less successful has been our work together in reforming and renewing our policies and procedures for shaping congregational leadership and life for the new day already dawned around us. Much remains to be done. The “Emergent Church” movement has much to show us about what worship and mission will look like when our hearts are open to God’s activity in the world for which “He gave His only begotten Son.”

Many kind folks have said to me “I’m not happy that you’re leaving!” C.S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, says in the movie “Shadowlands,” “I'm not sure God particularly wants us to be happy. He wants us to be able to love, and be loved. He wants us to grow up. We think our childish toys bring us all the happiness there is, and our nursery is whole wide world. But something must drive us out of the nursery, to the world of others. And that something is suffering.”

We have wrestled with Scripture together, and puzzled over the writings of Rick Warren and Herb Miller; you’ve been patient (mostly!) with my confidence that our elders and leaders can handle Lesslie Newbigin and Alasdair MacIntyre in chunks, too. As I step back from parish ministry for a time, I’ve posted some reflections at http://epicycles.blogspot.com for those who have the patience for poetry.

For everyone, Joyce and Chris and I will be at 120 Bantry St., Granville OH 43023 after Christmas, and our vocations – mine and Hebron Christian’s – will intersect again, either around this historic crossroads, or at the foot of the Cross.

In Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jeff

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