Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost is celebrated during a fifty-day season. Each in their own way is an event which marks a transition during which the followers of Jesus waited. Now waiting is not a period wherein there is nothing going on. Quite the contrary there is a lot going on.
Jesus was crucified and descended to the dead. Orthodox Christian icons reveal that in our waiting on earth Jesus was taking the battle to the very gates of hell and in our waiting, we gather as the messianic community of Jesus in the world.
Jesus is raised from the dead and the waiting disciples – in the upper room with doors locked and windows shuttered in fear, and the women who go to the place where Jesus was laid to do what was necessary for the body of the dead, receive the word that the world is now different and Jesus was set loose and appears on a number of occasions to bring peace, forgiveness, healing, to eat and to teach.
Jesus’ last appearance as the resurrected One, tells the apostles to wait in the city until they are clothed with power from high so that they will do even greater things. In that waiting they sing and pray and elect another to complete the circle of twelve.
Jesus’ promise comes in their waiting on the day of Pentecost and it cannot be contained in an upper room, not is it to be silent. They pour out into the streets to preach in foreign languages telling all they meet the wonders of God’s grace.
I was asked to serve at Samuel during a period of waiting as you were seeking to call a pastor. That period moved from merely a call process to something embracing a vision of four Lutheran congregations through Metro Ministry work towards not only joint ministry but a consolidation of the four congregations into one renewed community of the gospel.
For the last year and a half that transition from simply co-operation in ministry to consolidation in proclaiming the gospel as one community of Lutheran Christians in the city of Muskegon has brought us to consider the where’s, the why’s, the who’s, and the how’s of a process which will move us forward.
There is a process. We have congregational procedure according to our constitution. We have laws of incorporation to follow as mandated by the state. We have a constitutional procedure to follow from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. All these are brought together in order to proceed -should all four congregations agree to consolidate.
The process is deliberate. That means – in this period of waiting we deliberate.
1 The council will deliberate the proposed plan and it will make a recommendation to the congregation.
2 The congregation will have the opportunity to deliberate on the proposed plan, to address any questions that are raised, to lay out an agenda of how things will unfold should all the congregations vote to proceed the consolidation plan.
3 The congregation will meet at an officially called Congregational meeting to vote on the proposed plan.
4 The next steps towards consolidation is adopting a constitution for the consolidating congregations under a new name; elect a transition congregation council; call a transition lead pastor, and contract with part-time transitional pastor(s).
5 There are further steps in the process of deliberation which need to be discussed – not least of which is how ministries will be structured through committees or some other configuration. They will be necessary to recommend not only programmatic ministries but also outreach and worship programs, recommendations to the newly formed community about updates and renovations which need congregational approval.
6 One step which must be allowed to unfold deals with the realization that four congregations with varying years of ministry, tradition, character and personality, will be coming to an end. This step is one I have not had to be a part of in my 44 years of ordained ministry. We live in a culture which does not deal with death very well, not only with people we love and know, but also the death of communities. We will have to think and pray on this over the next couple of months.
We are not moving ahead into an abyss. Nor will we move ahead blindly. Decisions about how we move ahead, what needs to happen and when will be thoroughly discussed, aired and recommended to the newly formed congregation. So, we will be spending time building bridges from what was to what may be. Again, this will be a deliberate process of study, sharing, reflection, prayer before decisions are made.
So please, to dispel rumors please talk with Chris Strandberg, Carolyn Warren, Sandy Picard, Bill Cross or me. If we do not know or can’t answer your question, we will get it for you. We want to be sure you have all the information we can get to you on the final recommended plan once it is complete.
Pray for the congregations of Samuel, Immanuel, Our Savior’s and Saint Luke’s as we continue to venture forward.
I am, in Christ, your servant,
Pastor Chris Anderson