First Things in ’22

Well, the New Year is only 4 days old, and already there are a lot of irons in the fire. Part of that comes from unfinished and unexpected business holding over from last year.

Probably the first major thing on the agenda this year will be sorting out our Sunday worship service. Quite shockingly, we received news from the Episcopal congregation we rent from that they were not, in fact, going to discuss or negotiate with us regarding worship times, but rather, they unilaterally decided that they wanted to reclaim the 9 a.m. Sunday morning worship time slot that our congregation has been holding for the last 6 years. This puts us in a bind, especially since we had just recently surveyed the congregation, who overwhelmingly preferred staying in that 9 O’Clock spot. I think this could have been negotiated and discussed, but it was handled very poorly from the side of our landlords. It was disappointing, to say the least.

On the other hand, maybe this is a gift. While those who are ALREADY present show a strong preference for a 9 a.m. time slot, perhaps there are others who don’t YET come to our services because they find 9 too early on a Sunday morning. This is one of the things we need to consider very carefully, not only in choosing worship times, but in a general sense, we need to keep asking: What about those who aren’t here yet? There’s a bit of a tension, to be sure, but we need to be mindful about being open to new opportunities.

Another potential gift of an 11 a.m. spot is the opportunity to move directly from worship into a shared meal. Maybe it’s a potluck and a service project wrapped into one. We don’t know yet what cool things could happen if we crack open our hearts and minds in order to allow the New Thing to take shape in our midst.

Or maybe we find another venue. That’s also a live question. Maybe it’s both a new venue AND an 11 a.m. service. These are important questions for discernment.

So, dealing with Sunday morning worship is a high priority. But there are other important issues we need to consider, as well. There are a couple of things coming up on the horizon … which isn’t really that far away, if you think about it … to which we need to pay some attention.

For example, on Feb. 19 from 10 am to 3 pm, Christ Lutheran Church will be hosting a Sacred Harp singing school. Never heard of the Sacred Harp? Check it out at fasola.org. There are copious YouTube videos that can also give you an idea what this is about.

One of the things I love about the Sacred Harp tradition is the explosive joy that folks get from singing it. I was thinking about this during the Holiday Lights event at which our awesome choir took the stage to help passersby sing a few carols. There were some … issues, shall we say? … with the PA system, and so all those great voices were either drowned out by the overwhelming loudness of the amplifiers, or the singers’ voices simply got swallowed up by the vastness of the outdoor space they were singing in. I said to Christy at the time, “You know, this wouldn’t be a problem if they were singing fasola.” She said, “Yeah, but the sound can be grating for some people.” “True,” I said, “But their voices wouldn’t be drowned out by that PA. Sacred Harp singing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can’t be ignored!”

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for more info on that Singing School coming up. Even if you don’t think you can sing, I hope you’ll come and try. It’s a school, after all, and it’s designed specifically for people who “can’t” sing or read music. It’s gonna be great!

Not long after that, Lent begins. Yes, already. Yes, I know we just finished with Christmas. But I really felt like we were behind in planning on Christmas, and I want to get a jump start right now.

Which brings me to this: A Worship Planning Team. I’m looking for people who are curious about what goes into planning worship. Did you know, for example, that Sunday mornings and Saturday evening services don’t “just happen?” Who knew?! (Hint: I did. So did Julie and Sandra and all the ladies on the Altar Guild. They need some folks, too, by the way!)

So I want to put together a team that will help think through and plan worship, not only for but especially for the bigger seasons of the year. Lent, the Great Three Days, Holy Week and Easter is one of the bigger seasons. Advent and Christmastide are another. But there are also smaller fasts and feasts along the way that deserve our attention. I can’t do this on my own. It’s too much. So I’m looking for some peeps to join me.

One of the things I DO want to do for Ash Wednesday is a program I’ve been doing for the last 8 years or so. It’s called “Ashes to Go.” (See ashestogo.com) This sounds really intimidating, because it’s a little bit like <gasp!> “evangelism!” Don’t worry. It’s not really that hard. I’m a shy introvert and I can do it, so you can, too.

The idea behind Ashes to Go is that we move from our Ash Wednesday service out into the community in groups of two or more, and we take ashes to folks who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend a service with the imposition of ashes. Yes, it’s Covid season, but I have a plan to do this safely. But the wearing of ashes is an ancient reminder of our humanity, which includes mortality. But we place the ashes on people in the shape of the cross, which reminds us that death is NOT the final word.

The first time I did Ashes to Go was both extremely humbling and incredibly liberating. It made a *permanent* mark on me, and I’d like to invite you all into that blessing, too. So keep your eyes open for more information on that, as well.

What do we have so far?
* Rethinking Sunday Morning
* Sacred Harp Singing School
* Worship Team formation
* Ashes to Go and Lent planning

But wait! There’s more!
Right before Lent, we have Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Fetter Dienstag. Karnival. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the last push for decadence before Lent. It feels like that’s something we need to strongly consider being involved in.

Then, in the first weeks of Lent, there’s also St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know whether that’s a big festival for Christ Lutheran folks, but it feels like it really could be. I know how much you all enjoy getting together and eating. Who doesn’t?! But it’s something we need to plan ahead for.

Those are some of the bigger things I’ll be working on, with the help of your friendly and more-than-competent Church Council. We’re also going to be looking at expanding our policies and procedures manual, including some updates on church structure. I’m in the end stages of putting together a Funeral Policy and procedures thing, which might not sound terribly exciting, but is really quite important. I also have in mind to draft a policy on children in worship (We should be much more intentional about honoring the presence of young people among us, since they are NOT the future of the church as much as they are the PRESENT of the church.) I’d like for us to consider also being more openly welcoming and affirming for LGBTQIA+ folks who might want to worship with us, but who have either resisted so far or have remained very quiet about who they are because, while this congregation is certainly in no way UNwelcoming of this demographic of siblings in Christ, we also aren’t an openly safe space for them just yet. But all of that is part of a bigger conversation we all need to have together.

So, these are some of the bigger items the first quarter of 2022 has in store for us, along with some of the more day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. It really feels like plans are falling into place, and this is going to shape up to be an important year in the life of this congregation. I’m still very excited to be part of what God is doing in and through Christ Lutheran Church. Whatever we do, we’ll do together. Whatever we are, we remain united in Christ, who is the head of our body, feeder of our souls, and transformer of our minds.

Come on ’22! We’re ready for ya!

With love,

Pastor Rob

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