Message from Chip — March 2023

I am grateful for the life and ministry we share and the opportunity to celebrate our ministry in 2022 with you all at our Annual Meeting earlier this month. Thank for you for listening carefully as we shared with you both the joys and concerns of our ministry. It was wonderful to be in person again after three years, as well as to continue to include people who needed to be with us online. We focused the meeting on the state of the church, trying to raise up both areas to celebrate and how we need to discern how we will move forward in ministry together in 2023. Tami and I appreciate your comments and questions and give thanks for your commitment to our ministry as we live through the everchanging landscape of ministry together in our community, as well as the changing landscape of religious life around our country.

In my work for our Presbytery and denomination and as a coach, many church leaders have shared their concerns about the challenges facing so many churches today. The most common theme is fear and anxiety. How will we make it? What are we to do? The more fear and anxiety chart the course, my colleagues have noted, the more their ministries become paralyzed. People do anything and everything, but not what they are called to do, let alone be, as people of faith. As Tami preached in a recent sermon, faith and fear can and do go together, but we need to manage our fear so that we can live by faith. All the more reason why I am grateful for our church’s faith and willingness to live into the future, even when we don’t always know where things are going, and trust that we can discern God’s way for us together.

This is also why our Lenten theme this year is so timely: Incarnation on the Cross: God Is Still With Us! The incarnation we celebrate at Christmas isn’t simply a moment in our story. It defines the path of faith and life for everything that comes after it. Otherwise, it turns Jesus Christ into “a mere Plan B,” as Father Richard Rohr puts it, “after the first humans sinned, which is the way most people seem to understand the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Great Mystery of Incarnation could not be a mere mop-up exercise, a problem-solving technique, or dependent on human beings messing up.” Instead, Jesus Christ was Plan A as the way of life all along, he writes, even before humans existed. The Word, then, became flesh and lived among us so that we could learn how to be who we are created to be, in joys and sorrows, in certainty and doubt, in faith and fear, all the while knowing that God is still with us.

This is the good news that will chart the course as we discern faithful ways forward in our lives and ministry. We will listen together for God’s Word speaking to us now in a world recovering from a pandemic. We will listen for the call of Christ to be his body of love and grace, care and healing for our church family. We will listen for where the Spirit is leading us to reach out into the community and the world, in words and actions, through mission and service, so that others may also discover the good news that we celebrate every day – God is still with us.

Faithfully yours, Chip