Sunday, December 29, 2013

A few words for the end of 2013

Learning to navigate new waters
As 2013 draws to a close, I look back on a year of transition.  I left my seven year pastorate at the First Baptist Church of Bennington, Vermont, to begin my service as the Associate Executive Minister for the American Baptist Churches of New York State.  Moving into Regional ministry was not "on my radar" of possible directions that ministry would take me, especially still not yet hitting the "40" mark.  (Don't worry, it awaits me in 2014....)

I miss many of my congregants and friends from my time in Bennington.  Alas, ministry is only for a season.  I appreciate the chance to learn and grow in the practice of ministry in my years there, especially in the work of interfaith cooperation and helping create greater community-based collaborative efforts.  I am grateful for the community affirmation as I departed as well as the ABC/USA's Committee on Christian Unity and Interfaith Cooperation recognizing me with a certificate  for my Bennington work at the Mission Summit and Biennial in June 2013.

I was particularly fortunate to have a local newspaper that still keeps a religion "beat" going, allowing a gifted journalist, Mark Rondeau, the ability to write feature articles about part of Bennington's landscape sometimes less understood or given attention: its faith communities.   Mark wrote a nice article about my departure, available as of this posting via:

My wife and I took the opportunity to relocate to enter into the new world of setting up our own house. We had not owned a home prior to this.  For a growing number of clergy, parsonages are not as readily offered by congregations.  Worse, the experience of getting everything lined up can be a challenge.  Some of my colleagues have lived in temporary rental housing for a good six months to a year and beyond, not able to "move into the neighborhood" as readily as some folks might suppose.  It can be disruptive to a family to be living in boxes for some time after a new calling has started, and even tougher to find the time in that first couple of years to parlay the time needed to find housing, qualify for the loan (the more important time consumer) and settle into a new place.  We consider ourselves quite fortunate to have found a nice little home in a quiet neighborhood.   Likewise, the move of only one hour from our previous location helped with getting our stuff (especially the books!) here.  We are most grateful to the friends who helped us move when time and funds were tight!  (Initially, the pets thought it was a trip to the vet by a very circuitous route!)

Settling into new jobs, a new household and a new state (especially with my new ministry's road work component), we find ourselves grateful for the opportunities that change and transition have brought to us.  I am finding a new lease on life working with congregations, church leaders and pastoral colleagues.  Kerry is enjoying the great amenities of the metro area.  Most importantly, our cats and our beagle have made the transition to a smaller home fairly well, though we suspicion one cat dearly misses the stairs of the Bennington parsonage where she could race at top speed up and down (usually when I was trying to navigate the stairs with a full laundry basket obscuring my view!).

Some ministry highlights since joining ABCNYS ministry:

Some of my blog posts received additional publication via Associated Baptist Press and Ethics Daily:

A selection about the role of discernment during times of congregational transition was shared via:

ABP also carried a blog post where I highlighted congregational vitality as evidenced by one of our ABCNYS congregations:

An essay on closing churches (and caring for the flesh and blood implications of decisions about brick and mortar) began as a guest panelist presentation in Troy, NY, on adaptive uses of church facilities and wound up as part of Ethics Daily's offerings in late December:

We look forward to new opportunities in 2014, professional and personal alike.  I will be helping with the 2014 Biennial Meeting for the ABCNYS region (likely Fall 2014).  Churches are starting to call me for Sunday morning visits, support for pastoral transition and inviting me to journey alongside them, pondering some interesting questions about ministry and mission.

Times are always a' changin'.  Along with Jim Kelsey and the ABCNYS staff and leadership, I'm glad to be part of these times with the 290+ congregations of ABC/New York State.

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