I have been very fortunate over the years in ministry to have served with wonderful congregations who are passionate about the mission and ministry of Jesus. I have also been part of the wider church and other conversations that reveal a different reality in many places.
Overshadowed by the Story of ‘What Used To Be’
In recent times the buzz in church world – regardless of denomination – is about dwindling congregations and church closures. A number of churches are barely hanging on and in a effort to stay alive, just a little longer, they move to half time ministry hoping that this might make a difference. Unfortunately, it rarely does. At least not in a positive sense. Moving to half time cuts down on services offered and possibilities for growth which, in turn, leads to further decline. Now, some decline is simply a matter of demographics and dwindling population in an area which means that this is totally out of the congregations control.
A few moments ago I had a wonderful chance encounter with a member of my faith family here at First and we ended up chatting about this very thing. He was reflecting on the reality that the story of First United as it is now, seems to be overshadowed by the story of what used to be. He marveled in the ministry that is taking place and the ways in which we have grown as a congregation.
Exploring New Ideas and Seeing Possibilities
Where is she going with this? You might ask. Well, it seems to me that we are quick to tell the stories of decline and uncertainty. In some ways, I think we even thrive on them. Not really sure why. It’s kind of like that old saying “bad news travels fast”.
So today, with the sun shining into the windows and bringing a sense of hope and possibility I want to share a couple of good news stories.
The first one has to do with First United Church.
We just finished our annual meeting which was full of good news stories. Despite the restoration project and the number of mini crisis that we have encountered in the last three months with the furnace and the sprinklers, we finished the year with an increase in givings, an increase in fundraising, an increase in usage revenue and an increase in the membership. We have seen our outreach ministries grow and thrive and branch out in new ways through things like Art Therapy and Energy Wellness Classes. We have watched out children and youth program grow and take on a new life and this barely touches the surface.
What I celebrate most is the willingness of this faith family to explore new ideas and possibilities; the passion for the gospel that is evident in every aspect of life here; and the ways that we have embraced the differentness in each of us.
The Second Story has to do with another congregation where I am the supervisor.
As such I have the privilege of attending their meetings and this past Sunday, their annual meeting. This is a small rural Pastoral Charge who has been dealing with decline and who did move to part time ministry. The wonderful thing about them is their passion for the gospel and their desire to grow and thrive. There is never a meeting that is not filled with moments of laughter, even when the issues are serious. They are always exploring ways to move ministry out of the building and into the community and are eager to embrace all possibilities. This past Sunday they made the brave and bold move of investing in the future and decided to return to full time ministry. It will be a challenge but they are committed and they see the possibilities that are there, just on the horizon.
In both these stories and many others, I am privileged to be part of the journey. I give thanks for these folk and for the commitment to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
© 2019 Rev. Valerie Peyton Kingsbury. All rights reserved.