Dear Caz Pres Family,
We’re now about five months into my time with you. At this point we are in the middle of the second bunch of small-group meetings. That’s the second of four sets. Now that we’ve completed the first cycle, we’re familiar with the process and may just work a little more quickly. If all goes well, the work of the Transition Team will be finished in April. At that point, you will be able to elect a search committee and get started with your search.
I say that not because I want to rush, but because I know that people in a church always want to know how long it’s going to take. So, to think about beginning the search by this spring is an encouraging thought. Even so, my hope for you is that through this process you will grow closer together, building trust and common vision for the ministry that lies ahead.
As I’ve said in Session meetings, in Transition Team meetings, and in sermons, so I say now: this study and reflection process is for you, to open a space for you to share together. The process will generate some information. But I hope its greater result is to be a process of spiritual formation so that you will all grow further along toward the goal of maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:13). If I’m repetitive, that’s because one of the primary rules of communication is to be redundant, to repeat yourself! “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them.”
I still remember some words from a sermon preached by the chaplain at Furman University when I was a college student. At that time he was probably around the age I am now. He said that even though he’d been reading the Bible his whole life, and preaching for more than forty years, whenever he opened the scriptures and read, and if he paid attention – if he really listened – he would always hear something new. The spiritual life has a spiral shape. We repeat. We repeat rituals in worship. We repeat the reading of sacred texts. We repeat conversations and reflections on truths we still half-understand. We repeat all this with the goal of going deeper, coming closer to unity, being shaped into the stature of full maturity in Christ. Like Paul said in Philippians, he could never say he had arrived, that he knew it all, that he had finished the race, but he pressed on toward to goal.
I hope for the sake of the life of Christ in this congregation that this is true for you in this process of study and reflection. I hope that instead of asking, “Why do we have to do this?” you’ll ask, “What can we learn this time around?” What weights can you let go of and put down that keep you from running the race with perseverance?
One final thought, this one about the pandemic. We don’t know how long it will last, how long it will be until it is safe to resume (distanced and masked) in-person worship. We don’t know how long it will be after that until we can resume normal activities and gather with one another freely again. The Session will continue to be guided by the best public health information, scientific reasoning, and by a concern for the good of one another. We don’t want to endanger the health of others just because we’re impatient to get back to something we want to do.
Please be patient, and consider the well-being of others. I hate preaching to a camera in an empty sanctuary. I would much rather see your faces! But I will wait until the time is right.
Pray for one another, for health-care workers, for the vaccination supply chain, for our leaders.
Wherever we are, we are one in Christ. In the days to come, we pray that we can live out that unity in more physical reality as we gather once again. Until then…
Grace and peace,