After five years as a pastor, looking forward to the coming year, I am called to reflect on my performance and share my vision for the future. Self-assessment is a valuable process for insight and encouraging each other for the work ahead. The apostle Paul modeled this as he entered the final stage of his ministry, exhorting Timothy:
Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. 2 Tim 4:2 (CEB)
What do I hope for in my teachings, and how well have I achieved it? My first goal has been to cultivate a team of teachers to guide, encourage, and instruct us with wisdom that comes from different experiences on the faith journey. The teachings that have emerged from across our congregation have far exceeded my expectations. I am so grateful to everyone who has contributed. Our faith instruction has been far richer than could ever be accomplished by one person.
For my part, I hope to model an emphasis on listening- to the Holy Spirit and to each other- and to provide a consistent voice and presence amid the diversity. A growing edge for me has been to share more of my personal journey in these notes and in Sunday teachings, strengthening relationships in our struggles and joys.
In the coming year, I will be working on two differing aspects of teaching- the “official” podcast recorded message and a more interactive style in person on Sunday mornings. As the pandemic heightened my connection to our NCF extended family, I want to attend to both our local fellowship needs as well as our online ministry. I am excited to integrate the resources we discovered during COVID to enrich our worship and explore creative options for being a community of faith. I see the first Sunday of each month as an opportunity to try new things- outdoor fellowship, service projects, worshiping with other congregations, alternative evening services, and beyond.
For me, being a pastor is a conversational exchange as we journey together. You send me articles, insights, podcasts, music, event notices. I start my days with the Catholic lectionary daily Bible readings, listen to Pray as You Go andgospel music while exercising, and read Richard Rohr’s email meditation. I alternate weekly meetings with my nun for prayer and with a fellow social worker for counseling. I continue to lean on former NCF pastors Ron Simkins. Barbara & Jim Linder, Jeff Trask, and Vern Fein for their work and wisdom. The last words before I go to sleep are from Eugene Peterson’s devotional Living the Message. The direction that God leads us emerges from these interactions and is communicated through Tuesday notes, Leadership Team meetings, Thursday newsletters, and weekly worship.
Paul mentions 17 different people as he concludes his letter to Timothy. My local faith resources include Michael Crosby and Janet Guthrie at First Mennonite, Terrance Thomas at Bethel AME, Evangelist Young of the Ministerial Alliance, Rabbi Cook, Sheryl Palmer of Faith United Methodist, Rob Dalhaus of CU at Home, and more. The Interfaith Seder and Thanksgiving Events, Multi-Faith Prayer Service, Good Friday Streetfests, Reparations Conversations, and hosting the mens’ and women’s shelters are ways we have collaborated on behalf of our community.
Did your attention wander during those lists? I find myself skimming Paul’s specific instructions and names. So I return to his self-evaluation, and hope that someday I can say:
I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. 2 Tim 4:7 (CEB)
Paul says that a champion’s wreath awaits all of us who have set our hearts on waiting for the appearance of our righteous judge. I am grateful to be running this race with all of you, and am thankful that together we can help each other keep the faith.
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all. 2 Tim 4:22 (CEB)