It is hard to believe I am writing the last newsletter column of the year! I want to thank you for welcoming me this year and being willing to engage, even a little, in the reflective work of intentional interim ministry. It is not always easy to take a look at ourselves! As individuals in our own private lives or as a community. But we try to do this in an effort to grow and change and become better people and communities.
I see you showing up for one another and for this community you love. I see you actively engaged in the work of trying to repair hurts, establish open lines of dialogue (even on “touchy” topics), share your different “spiritual languages” with one another, seek to understand the roots and history of the community as well as begin to dream about possibilities, yet unseen, that may lie in your future.
This year, you have made progress in beginning to implement the terrific work of the Shared Ministry Review (SMR): you formed a Personnel Committee, a Governance Task Force, an Adult Programs Committee, and brought in an outside consulting group to help you learn how to better engage in difficult dialogues. Next year, I know you will continue to make strides in making the SMR a reality, especially in its recommendations around membership.
You only have to look at the Pew Research Center’s data on religious life in America to know that First Parish in Lincoln is far from alone in confronting shrinking membership on Sundays. (see https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/). Interestingly, many people who do NOT attend church say it is for practical reasons, not for lack of faith (https://www.pewforum.org/2018/08/01/why-americans-go-to-religious-services/).
No doubt about it, it’s a challenging time for the “institutional church;” I am no seer but I’d guess that communities that can be agile, creative and entrepreneurial as they reimagine themselves and their mission will have a better chance of survival than those less adaptive to our changing culture.
This summer, I will be leading a retreat on Iona, walking St. Cuthbert’s Way in southern Scotland, returning to the Outer Hebrides and enjoying family time in Rhode Island. Rev. John Nichols will be on call for pastoral emergencies June 14-July 14. I will be on call July 14 to August 14 and back from vacation on August 15th.
I will be eager to hear where your feet take you in the months to come and eager to resume our work together in the fall!
All best wishes,