In preparation for our Community Meeting this coming Saturday, here’s a synopsis of what I’ve been up to and what I’ve seen us up to together in the last quarter at St. Lydia’s!
What I’ve been up to:
The few months have been a rich and busy time for me as I’ve dug into my coursework at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. My first course this year was entitled, “Marriage, Families, and Relationships.” The course looked at family systems theory, which sees individuals as part of a larger system of family, be that a family of origin, a workplace, or a congregation. The course asked me to spend a lot of time looking at the family system I was raised in and reflecting on how that experience informs how I behave in a congregational system. It’s been really illuminating; I’d like to share some of the theory with all of you at our retreat this summer.
In addition, I was just accepted to the Clinical Pastoral Education Program (where I’ll work as a hospital chaplain) at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital here in New York. The summer program will give me a chance to work with families in crisis in a hospital setting. It will also allow me to fulfill that particular requirement for ordination.
Balancing the various demands on my time and energy continues to be a challenge, but I find that repeating, what we need is here, helps quite a bit!
I’ve focused much of my attention on crafting worship that is cohesive and fitting for the seasons we’ve been celebrating. Our worship practices feel more deeply rooted to me, and the congregation seems to own worship more fully. There’s room to flex and stretch, and there’s a greater sense of nuance. Though we’ve seen fewer newcomers the last few months, I sense that this is part of the natural ebb and flow we’ll continue to experience as we grow.
I instituted our first Community Conversation in December. I hope that these conversations (which will take place about once a month, except months when we have a Community Meeting) will give us an opportunity to dig into rich theological questions about who we are and how we’re doing what we’re doing at St. Lydia’s.
What I see us up to together:
The months of October and November have afforded us the opportunity to reflect on our identity in two important ways.
First, we began to engage in an important conversation around the possibility of affiliating with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In October, Pastor Phil, Daniel, and I preached about the connections between the local church and the wider church. We also discussed the matter at our Community Meeting. In December, we were able to meet and converse with Bishop Robert Rimbo in the context of worship. I’ve been pleased to be in conversation with many of you as you consider and discern what this relationship could mean for our community.
I see a relationship with the ELCA as a fruitful possibility for us. I’m seeking a formal connection to the wider church that connects us, feeds us, and supports us, as well as asks us to contribute to and support the denomination. I’m also pleased to see the community asking really good, smart questions about this relationship, and being intentional and wise as we move forward. This is a good thing!
Second, we had our first Community Conversations on the subject of welcome and safety. Keeping our doors wide open is not always an easy or comfortable experience; at times it can be unnerving. The conversation gave us a chance to think together about how best to keep the community “safe enough” to do the work or worship together. I wrote in more detail about the conversation on the blog. I’m in the midst of coordinating with a deacon in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to come and do a training with the entire community on mental illness and the church, especially as it relates to the homeless community.
I am reminded in this time that wrestling is a fundamental part of our identity as a church. We are here to wrestle, with God, with ideas, with questions, with one another. Sometimes we might be inclined to back away from this difficult task. After all, it’s strenuous, and it pushes us. But wrestling allows us to work through questions together that help us discover who we are. Wrestling means sweating and straining, but after each round, we feel satisfied and fulfilled. It’s part of the task set before us.