In This Issue
- Weekly Message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
- Weekly Facebook Video
- Announcements & Upcoming Events
- Outreach Opportunities & Updates
message from rev. whitt
Dear St. Luke Family:
This past Sunday afternoon, the officers of the church (deacons and elders) and the pastor nominating committee met for the officers’ retreat. It was a very fruitful afternoon, and the first time since my arrival as your interim pastor that the church leadership was able to gather in person to think and pray about St. Luke’s future.
We based the retreat on the work of author, former pastor, seminary vice president, speaker, and executive coach Tod Bolsinger. Bolsinger wrote a book entitled Canoeing the Mountains: Church Leadership in Uncharted Territory(InterVarsity Press, 2014). The book title refers to the Lewis and Clark expedition. In searching for the elusive Northwest Passage, the expedition believed that what they experienced of North America east of the Mississippi River would continue west of the Mississippi. They thought they would be able to canoe across the continent. And then they hit the Rocky Mountains. They weren’t prepared for what they encountered; they were in uncharted territory. They had to change their expectations and let some things go in order to persist in their mission.
The Church in the United States is in uncharted territory. We pastors, lay leaders, and church members, too, for that matter, were trained for the way church looked in the 20th century. This is true to some degree even of recent seminary graduates. If you preached good sermons, offered a Bible study, a choir, and a Sunday school, and visited church members when they hit a tough spot, you didn’t have to worry about whether people would show up. They just did. But over the past seven decades, the mainline Protestant Church in the United States has experienced consistent, unbroken decline in membership. This trend now has spread to evangelicals and Roman Catholics. We are in uncharted territory. All we know is that if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to get the same results we’ve been getting.
So Bolsinger and other church leaders recommend adaptive change. This starts with figuring out what our real mission is. What is it about St. Luke that is so central to our DNA as a congregation that if we quit doing it, we would no longer be St. Luke? Your leaders arrived at “the beloved community.” St. Luke has built a community that welcomes and includes, that shepherds and nurtures, that supports and inspires, that provides opportunities to serve and opportunities to grow in love and faith. Everything St. Luke does needs to further that mission; it needs to be consistent with that core DNA. If what we’re doing doesn’t further not only nurturing but building a beloved community, we need to let it go, or adapt it so that it does.
Bolsinger points out that people don’t fear change; they fear loss. What I’m describing certainly points to some loss. We don’t know what that means for St. Luke. But what I describe is also an adventure, one we take together and one you will embark upon with your new pastor.
St. Luke’s leadership is invested, committed, and excited about preserving what it is about St. Luke that needs to be preserved, and adapting that which gets in the way of St. Luke’s mission. I pray you will be, as well. There is no formula for this. We are off the map. It is an adventure.
This Sunday, I’ll preach about hope when things seem to be falling apart. We will experiment with music from Taizé, because the last time we did, a huge storm kept most folks home from church. Taizé music is contemplative and prayer-like, and it appeals to young people who flock to the Christian community at Taizé, France from all over the world. Come check it out this Sunday. Join the adventure!
Grace and peace,