Things have been a bit tumultuous around here. Some dissatisfaction, some ineffective communication, etc.
One Mission/Outreach member at a recent meeting brought up surveying our 200 members as to why they aren't coming to church. Our membership has been fairly steady (confirmands equaling out those who've died).
Two hundred members? There were about 150 (actually somewhat less) when I arrived here and we are at about 130 (not counting non-confirmed children). Of those, several are in retirement homes or home bound. Some of those were coming to church when I arrived but age and health problems have taken their toll.
We have a few friends of the congregation that we see as members who haven't formally joined, but worship with us regularly.
I sense an underlying anxiety about their future and though I am willing to help them deal with it, I believe that I will bear their fear. Perhaps, it is time for me to move on and time for another to take them into the future. That is still being discerned. This is the year of my 25th Ordination anniversary. It will be a rough year ahead.
25 years of ministry! Where has the time gone? I have accomplished nothing, only served as I hope and pray, God has desired for me to do. I haven't as some Christians would say, brought anyone to Christ. I hope that in some small, loving, caring ways, I have brought Christ nearer to some, young and old alike.
I cannot point to great numbers joining the church. I cannot point to a new church building, education wing or worship center. I cannot point to a bursting endowment fund. You will not find my picture lining the wall of a church hall. You will not see my name on any plaque. Although, if you look hard, you might find a baptism record, ordination of elders and deacons record, wedding or funeral record where my name is written down as the officiating minister. And if you were enjoyed a challenge, you would find my name in the records of old Session, and Church Council minutes. My name graces no authored book. I will not be found having served any long pastorate.
I can only point to Christ my Lord and the ones with whom I have journeyed in faith serving where I was called as prison chaplain, interim minister within 3 denominations, spiritual director and installed pastor. I can point to a silly skit, a humorous newsletter blurb, a funny announcment from the pulpit, a prayer with a dying member, tears shed with those in pain over some loss or medical prognosis, money given and forgotten but used for countless mission projects and the church, sitting in court with another, kissing the forehead or cheek of that sickly, elderly bed bound one, raising my voice in song and praise to the Lord my God, sharing a funny joke with a lonely homebound one, bringing a casserole to a very sick one, peeling more potatoes than I ever have in my whole life at the homeless shelter, moderating countless meetings, holding someone else's baby, splashing the waters of baptism on infant and adult alike, placing my hand on the head of those ordained, breaking bread and sharing the cup reminding those partaking of God's complete love of them, seeking to offer words hope and comfort for a funeral and afterwards, when everyone has left and a week or two has past and grief is still raw, seeking to offer words of hope and blessing to two who join their lives as one and knowing that there will be much before that will challenge their bonds of love that they can not even begin to imagine, (but I can). This is all I have to show for my 25 years as a minister - not much, just a handful, a small offering to God on my journey of faith and life. But, I trust it is enough, humble and flawed though it all was and is, yet, somehow overflowing with grace. And I know it is enough. Thank you, Lord, for this priviledge to serve you in this time and this place. I look to you and for what is yet before me and us. Use me, just as you have and just as you will.