July 5, 2011
To My Friends:
For eight and a half years every waking moment, every prayer, every resource and every talent has been directed to establishing a new church infused with a spiritual contagion, and focused on being a place unlike any other where people for whom traditional forms, styles and structures were an impediment to faith.
o Small group meeting instead of social clutches o bible studies instead of just Sunday sermons o leadership teams instead of committee meetings o a Session to resource mission initiatives rather than controlling what happens o building a non-geographic mission boundary beyond the familiar New England village/neighborhood church identity o accentuating ministry along with denomination identity o enjoying flexible worship alongside the familiar forms o finding stewardship in joy as a way to fulfill a sense of commitment o open exploration of spiritual experiences that can expend and deepen dogmatics o enthusiastic responsiveness to the fringed mission constituency taking priority over catering to the comforts of the core o all as God’s community for others more than for ourselves.
We have enjoyed many exciting moments. We found a powerful appeal among the unchurched not wanting to get sucked up into an organization. We blew the doors off conventional expectations when we finished the construction in five years instead of ten, built an endowment to fund the building costs so tithes could flow directly to ministry, reestablished a Sunday school, opened the Tuesday music jam and meditation times. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it all. I have not been able to lead the core as far as I would have liked and have generated some animosity instead of enthusiasm. Our consultations with our Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry, Paul Nickerson of Griffith Consultants who advised us during the initial transition and Frank Poole our past Synod Executive who started this project with us, concur that we are ready for the next stage of ministry, one that should not follow the full-time pastoral model we employed to plant the church, but creatively shift to something that is, well, not too defined at the moment. We’re at a good transitional time and with the Presbytery’s help, I am sad to announce, we will be closing our pastoral relationship on July 15, turning the church back to the Presbytery, and pray for the gracious providence of our Lord to take us all to the next level of greatness.
Customarily, pastoral closures have an eight to ten month period, but given the need to continue our progress expediently, the Presbytery, our Session and I have agreed to close the relationship sooner than later, and immediately commence the planning and consultations for the next phase of ministry.
This Sunday, July 10, will be my last sermon with a reception following. The Rev. John Merz of the Presbytery, whom many of us know from his visits over the years, will join us in worship and accept the moderating role from me, commencing with a brief congregational meeting to act on the closure of our pastoral relationship. Subsequently, Mr. Merz will serve as your temporary supply and moderator.
I understand this may come as a shock to many. It was not our plan, but the momentum to chart the next course for the church must be freed to take hold. The ministry ahead requires courageous faith shown in the history of this church, one that often means stepping into places that appear dark and confusing. Yet be it ever so true, in faith, with prayer, focused on Christ as Lord and with gracious hearts, we will move forward in expectation and love for the glorious Kingdom of God.
The Reverend John Mark Rodkey, Pastor