Dear First Church,
It was the shortest of years. It was the longest of years. It was certainly the strangest of years. Today marks my one-year anniversary of service as your Minister of Faith Formation. In many ways, it was what I expected: a great working relationship with the rest of the staff and my clergy colleague, beautiful shoreline community, festive and creative worship, and great faith and food. On the other hand, halfway through my first year it became entirely unexpected…in a word: pandemic.
Usually, a minister’s first year in a new church is a divinely-sanctioned-stumble through a series of firsts. Everything is new again. As we get to experience how a congregation does each important event and holiday, we learn how our gifts and skills fit or don’t fit as we uncover the flavor of the congregation.
I made it through the first half of the year and loved learning our autumn, Advent, Christmas, and Civil Rights History Trip traditions. I made it through most of Confirmation and even a retreat to Silver Lake. Then, in late March, everything changed. Even after a year here, I still have not witnessed a Guilford High School graduation on the green, a First Church Easter Sunday, summertime festivals on the Shoreline, a Confirmation Sunday, and other Spring and Summer traditions.
On the other hand, what amazing and uniquely strange new experiences we have shared together: quarantine, online Bible studies, websites, pastoral care by Zoom, six months of online worship video creation, and even a virtual Confirmation and Easter Sunday. While there are important traditions of what makes First Church unique that I did miss this first year, we created just as many new traditions or potential traditions together. I pray that this connects us even as many things remain unseen and unknown.
When the staff met by social distance to discern a new theme for 2020-2021, we all settled on this: “Leaning into God.” Leaning into God is all we can do these days. It isn’t a hopeless time or theme, but it is a theme and a time for grounding in the ultimate hope and love we find in God and this church. It implies a deepening and widening faith that has come from witnessing how important church community is for us—as we meet by Zoom, support each other by phone, walk our beautiful campus, share in online worship, and find safe ways to again meet together. Read more about this new theme in an article written by Penelope in this month’s Landmark Newsletter (click here).
It was the longest of years. It was the shortest of years. It was certainly, for me, a wonderful year.
Dear First Church,