New Years Reflections

Wow! 2010 was a great year! Miller Hall received a desperately needed energy-efficiency upgrade. “Under One Roof”, our multi-cultural, mission facility-sharing ministry got a new partner in the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ. Our once-a-month Community Puppet Dinner Theater was given birth. Our neighborhood food pantry was granted space of its own and is opening this Friday, January 7.

Through these big-ticket accomplishments in 2010 our mission to address poverty in our neighborhood is beginning to take shape, our mission facilities are close to capacity, our budget is strong, and we’’ve picked up a couple of new ministry partners as we, together, witness to the Good News of God’s love in our world. In addition we continue to thrive with a fabulous music ministry, an expanding community garden, studies throughout the week,… and the list goes on.

I’’m in my ninth year as your pastor. Our journey together from the summer of 2002 to today has NOT been easy, to say the least. For every success there have been colossal failures. There have been times of hurt feelings and disagreements. But just as a fruitful apple orchard requires regular pruning, so does a faith community need constant refining of relevancy and purpose. Through it all, you stuck with it, and with me. And I am deeply grateful. I give God thanks for you, for this community we serve together, and for the journey ahead.

What lies ahead?

United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase published a book entitled Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. In his book he lays out five practices of healthy, vital congregations: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity.

Your leaders and I are entering a time of discernment to discover how we, as a congregation, might use these practices to help answer questions like these:

  • How can we create a faith environment that is relevant to the un-churched and the marginally churched as well as those who have been on the journey for a while?
  • How might we engage with neighbors, many of whom are low-income and/or homeless?
  • How might these practices help us open our church further to the community?

I can tell you this is no easy road forward. But it will be as rich and rewarding as it is difficult.

In his book, Leadership Is An Art, Max Depree says this: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality, the last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”

So, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! I give God thanks for your generosity, your patience, your faithfulness, and your tenacity. 2010 was a terrific year, without a doubt. As for 2011?

I’’ll close with some words from 1 John 3 (The Message), “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it, —we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are… children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him —and in seeing him, become like him.”

Shalom – Bill