January 2022 - Newsletter

Greetings from the desk of the Pastor! It feels very strange to be typing the year “2022” at the top of this newsletter. I feel as though many of us spent most of 2021 still recovering from 2020! It has been a bizarre and harrowing few years. One thing I love about our culture are the traditions surrounding a new year. There is an energy, an abundant hope and a fresh start that come with that new date we write at the top of the paper. And I think “energy, abundant hope and a fresh start” are all things we need right now.

I have a few quick announcements to go with this new year. First – I wanted to announce that in December our Administrative Board approved a budget that included, for the first time in years, a space for a potential Associate Pastor. Over the last few years, I have worked very hard to meet the needs of this congregation and to shepherd you all as best I can. And you all have been so incredibly supportive and understanding. But at the same time - my heart breaks a little bit with every hospital visit I can’t get to, or every phone call I can’t return because I have too many things on my plate. I am very confident that bringing in another pastoral presence will multiply the care we can provide for this church as a staff.

The next big announcement is really more of an update. As many of you know by now, my wife and I are expecting a new baby to make an appearance sometime in February. Just like we did with our last baby, our hope is to have a home birth. I believe we are the only Pastors in the history of our parsonage to have the baby IN the parsonage. 😊 I have requested to take 4 weeks off when the baby comes. Obviously the ministry of the church will carry on, and we have a wonderful slate of guest preachers lined up for those weeks.

Beyond those exciting announcements, really the main thing I wanted to say in my newsletter this month is simply how incredibly proud I am of this church. You have done incredible things through this church. I get a lot of phone calls of people who need help with rent, or utility bills or groceries – and sometimes I ask them, “how did you hear about our church?” One time, after I asked that question the person replied, “I called 411 and they said you’re one of the few churches that can actually help people.” Now, I can’t confirm that he was telling the truth – but I have it from multiple sources that this is our reputation in the world: “a church that can actually help people.” We have come to a place through all the ministries we do, where community leaders are excited to see members of our church enter the room.

From the chamber of commerce to the school districts to the police force – we are known as a place that does everything they can to help people. And I’m not just waxing eloquent – I can actually name specific examples for each place. I remember when the Chamber of Commerce contacted me and asked, “Hey, can you put us in touch with that awesome music group that does the thing in the parks?” And another time I spoke with a police officer about how glad they were to see the “Voices For Children” event that the UMW put on. One time a visitor came to church and they brought their little baby, I remember them asking, “Do you have things for young families who have small children who might be loud?” My face must have looked ridiculous as I busted out in the biggest grin and I reassured them, “Yes – we’re actually getting really good at loving young families with loud babies, let me introduce you to some folks” (and then I led them over to our amazing Christian Education Director Melissa and to Sarah Covert and the nursery team).

It has taken a lot to get where we are. I have pushed and I have challenged you all – a lot. Maybe I have pushed too hard at times, or tried to do too many things too quickly. And I do apologize for that. I have a lot to learn as well, and I’m looking forward to finding a healthy rhythm of growth. But I want you all to know how proud I am to say, “I get to be a part of that church.” It has been an honor to serve alongside you these past few years, and I truly believe that we are just getting started. But until then, I’ll see you on Sunday.

Pastor JJ