Greetings to the Pilgrim family,
Yesterday, August 30, this congregation took the historic step of extending a call to Pastor John to serve as your next Senior Pastor. The enthusiasm of attendees that I witnessed following the service lets me know that though this has been a long process, God’s Spirit has been alive through it all.
The arrival of a new pastor is an awesome time for any congregation, as new relationships, new ideas and new traditions emerge to develop meaningful ministries built upon the existing foundations. As Pastor John said in his sermon, everyone, pastor and lay member alike, have diverse gifts and talents that when used together, will develop more fully the Body of Christ at Pilgrim Church.
His arrival means that my time with the Pilgrim family is nearing an end. The church leadership and I have joked often this summer that when they asked me to provide worship leadership, way back in February, it was only going to be for two Sundays! Six months later, I feel very much like a part of the Pilgrim family. And that has led me to think a bit about the whole concept of “family” especially as it is used in the life of a congregation.
We may be ‘born’ into a family. But we can also be ‘adopted’ into a family or even ‘assimilated’ into one. I know that I was born into my biological family, and that I have nephews and a niece who were adopted into our family and have become family, even as they have come to know of the families into which they were born. I can also recall the very good friends that our family grew up with who became so close that many times my siblings and their sons thought we had four parents, so assimilated we were into both families.
There are also some marvelous families who open their homes, their arms and their love to welcome an unrelated person into the family as they ‘foster’ that new addition.
I was born into the United Church of Christ through my heritage, and I was adopted into the life of congregations in Wisconsin and Florida for 45 years as they called me to pastoral leadership. While serving those congregations, I became assimilated into many families by sharing the most intimate experiences of life: birth, death, marriage, struggles.
In the past six months I have now experienced what it means to be fostered by a family – the Pilgrim Church family – as I have lived through perhaps one of the most profound times many of us have experienced. You have welcomed me into your homes via remote worship, you have sent emails and cards of appreciation which have humbled me, you have embraced me in those times when we may have met outside the sanctuary. I feel as if I have gained a temporary family who has nurtured me in these days, allowing me to enjoy the weekly task of preaching again, if only for a short time (or a very long two weeks!).
As October dawns, a new chapter of Pilgrim’s life will begin. You will be well served. You will welcome Pastor John’s family into the history and the future of this congregation. You will honor the church family into which they were born, adopt them into Pilgrim life, and assimilate them into your special life events. Love them, and let them be themselves, using their unique and diverse gifts and talents in your common ministry.
Until that time, I will still see you in worship, remotely for the first two weeks, and then with great hope (and continued good health numbers), we will once again gather, physically distanced and masked, in the sanctuary for the last two Sundays. And God’s Spirit will continue to be present with us however and wherever we come together to praise God.
My deepest thanks for the opportunity that you have given me to share in the ministry and family of Pilgrim Church.