After three Sundays at St. Paul’s I find myself so excited about this church revitalization and transformation that I want to run myself ragged by trying too many different ideas at a time. Here are early thoughts:
Worship growth: In worship I started out right off “doing a new thing” - as a statement to visitors who come as much as a statement to those who have been part of this congregation for many years. We are going down a different road. It has started smoothly, not full of ruts or wagon tracks, no boulders in the path to pry out with huge tree-trunks. Perhaps the addition of a singing bowl soothes us all.
Quick Changes: Before the first day, I thought of the pastor who came to the church and saw that the piano was in the wrong place. So, the pastor moved it to the pulpit side of the church. On Sunday, people noticed the change and were not pleased and started a movement to have the pastor removed. After some time, a new pastor was called. First Sunday, the pastor noticed the piano was in the wrong place, and moved it an inch. Eventually the piano was moved to the place the first pastor had selected, but it took a couple of years.
Changing our community: We don’t have time to move the piano by the inch if we are to be successful in revitalizing ourselves into a progressive Christian community - the vision the congregation seeks. I hear that we were considered one of the most conservative congregations in the area. If we go slowly no will notice the difference, yet I remember that when change happens too quickly, people feel out of balance (and out of sorts). Finding that right balance is a bit tricky - one person likes the singing bowl, while another likes the sanctuary arts we have implemented and yet another want nothing to change.
Balance beam: When a congregation member offers a suggestion, I mull it over and see how balance can be achieved. I am short and was told that not all could see me during the sermon. So rather than stand on the lowest level to preach, I now stand up high - but still not near the pulpit and not in a robe and still, generally, without a script. I prefer to be on the same level as the congregation so we see eye-to-eye as it were, but I can walk down to eye level then go back up. That way, even the tiniest person can see me. I remember to thank God that they want to see me.
Who is God calling us to be? Balance is more than worship - balance in taking strides that keep us going forward while we assess where we are. Though we have not yet discerned who God is calling the congregation to be, we have started to do some active outreach to the community. I think that our activity will not hurt us and may even help us in the long run. Eventually, though, we need to be of one mind as we offer ourselves, our programs and our church to the greater Albuquerque community.
In the past, this blog was about my transition from a city dweller to a rural pastor. As I grow into God’s vision for me, I find myself more comfortable as a pastor in a city environment - wondering at the insects that walk on the pavement and don't their tiny feet get hot? and looking toward church revitalization in an area of western thinking - conservative but peppered with rays of hope illuminated by sunshine. So much sunshine.