Let me indicate what I learned from the May 8 sermon response and also April 10.
First of all, more people than expected indicated an interest in attending a deacons’ training. And that’s great! We have lost two deacons in recent months (they stepped down for personal reasons). So game on! We have a deacons’ training, featuring our Association Minister, Kelly Gallagher, scheduled for Saturday, September 10. It will begin in the morning and include a lunch. Here’s what we will accomplish:
- Clarify and deepen what it means to be a deacon. Many people have told me that they do not know what it entails. The deacons themselves report that it sometimes feels like busywork.
- I want service as a deacon to be the best opportunity offered by the church to deepen your spiritual life and sense of serving God’s purposes. We’ll be looking for ways to do that.
- We will initiate a shepherding groups plan. Each deacon will be responsible for keeping tabs on a portion of the congregation. Shepherding groups will not mean regular visits from a deacon, but will be a way for church leadership to stay in touch with the whole congregation, making sure no one slips through the cracks.
- Fun! We’ll have good food and fellowship. Deacons’ meetings are fun.
Secondly, I told the Church Council that I was going to focus on two to three initiatives, although I’ve talked about many others. But let’s focus on a few things that we can get done. Based on the sermon responses, here’s what I want to do:
- Monthly dinners and discussions. Lots of people committed to attending this, preferably on a Monday or Tuesday weeknight. I want to have good (tasty, nutritious, and ethical sourced) food followed by interesting and educational discussions. My plan is to find a chef and to provide her or him with assistance (rather than potluck it). And then we’ll use an admission fee or donation to fund the food and speakers (if there is a cost there). Speakers could include local professors addressing issues relevant to the church; I’m also interested in the use of stories to bring reconciliation and healing. We might precede the dinner with a vespers service.
- Bread Ministry. 10 out of 15 signed up for this, so we are ready! I’ve heard this worked well in the past to welcome people to our neighborhood. Everyone loves fresh bread (well, except for the gluten-free set). And bread connotes the sacramental body of Christ, as well. I think we should have a bread-making session and then have a rotating group make bread monthly and distribute it. We should also make sure we are truly delivering bread to all kinds of people in our community–rich and poor, people of all types and persuasions.
- Confirmation. This will require much of my time and energy. I want our next confirmation class (for our young folk to officially join the church) to be life-shaping. I want our new members to acquire all the knowledge, skill, and habitual practices they will need to be sustained over a lifetime by faith in God. That will require discipline and hard work, lightened by fun and fellowship. I will ask no more of our confirmands than their coaches ask of them to play varsity–but that’s probably more than we are used to asking. It will also require and be a great opportunity for parents to connect with their kids over faith commitment. In September, I will host a meeting with confirmands and parents to identify what we want to accomplish together.
I want September to be a fresh start for us as a church, a time for new energy and commitment. I am looking forward to my installation as a pastor officially. The date is not set yet. I have been working on attaining standing in the UCC Hampshire Association. This will also involve me taking a course on UCC polity and history, which I am looking forward to.
That will be enough for us all to deal with for awhile. But entering into these activities, and revitalizing our deaconate, will bring to our church a refreshed sense of God’s presence and purpose. Let us pray for that.