Good Morning Church!
I wish we could be outside enjoying sunshine today, but alas, we live in the North Country where spring happens in slow motion. Today I’m huddled in close to the wood stove as I gaze out at the flowering alder, which are soaking up all this rain. I’m not sure when we will see the sun again, but I’m hoping it will be sooner rather than later!
Despite the cold temps, the news this week is buzzing with excitement!
Sunday in the Sanctuary!
This is the big week! Are you ready to return to the sanctuary? I’m very excited. The kid’s corner in the back of the sanctuary is coming together, Ron has helped me set up a chair and a music stand on the chancel (for me to be able to preach sitting down), the piano has been tuned, Dale has reorganized the sound system, Levi and Isaiah are ready to serve as our offering collectors, Connor is planning to be our liturgist, and I’ve got name tags ready to hand out– to help those of us who are new– to know who is who behind our masks.
In addition to all of this preparation, Keilor is organizing “cantors” to sing our hymns on behalf of the entire congregation–since it is not safe for us to sing aloud together. Each week, one or two people will sing in our collective place, so that we can enjoy hearing the lyrics to our hymns along with the music. This week Lora and Dick Lunt will be singing, so please be praying for them. It is no easy task to stand up in front of people and sing!
Also, I want to mention to you that this Sunday we will not be holding an official coffee hour. Since it is not wise for all of us to eat and drink together unmasked in a confined space (and by default, then talk together unmasked, too), coffee hour will only officially be happening when the weather is nice enough for us to gather together outside. This does not mean, however, that you cannot still visit after church. I want to encourage you to stay in the sanctuary to chit chat after the service (with your masks on) or wander outside and talk away on days when we don’t have a structured coffee hour. It’s very important that we have time and the space for fellowship, but it can’t come at the cost of our health, so for the next few months I need to ask that we give ourselves permission to be a little “looser” with both the idea and the implementation of coffee hour. Can we do that? Can we find different ways to visit together when we can’t do so over coffee in the Center?
This week the visioning committee and session met with two women who work for our General Assembly (what I lovingly refer to as our Mothership), to learn about a program that the denomination is supporting. It’s called the Intercultural Development Inventory (or IDI for short). It’s a tool that helps people learn how to communicate with others more effectively, become more aware of the needs of others, and learn more about yourself in the process.
The visioning committee and session will be participating in the IDI to decide if it’s something that our whole congregation might benefit from trying in the future. I think it could become a valuable tool to help us navigate through our forthcoming Big Shift work, and I’m grateful to this group of folks for giving it a trial run!
Dave Wells, who is part of the visioning committee, has written this to share with all of you, about this project they’re working on:
A small group of us have volunteered to consider the challenges facing Potsdam First Presbyterian Church and explore possibilities for how we might move forward in the face of local, national and global shifts. We intend to take turns sharing our deliberations with the congregation. The members of this group include Terry de la Vega & Dale Hobson, Marilyn & Neil Johnson, Sharon and Bob Pickard, Lydia & Renee Stauffer, Suzanne Waters, Jane & Dave Wells, and Pastor Katrina Hebb.
The way forward won’t be determined by our group. We simply hope to clarify the challenges, constraints, and possibilities so that the congregation can proceed with a collective deliberation in selecting and pursuing a path.
The “Big Shift”
The “path” that Dave is talking about is a reference to the Big Shift work I’ve mentioned previously. As you all know, our financial situation is such that, unless we make some serious changes to how we “be” and “do” church, we will be out of money in 2-3 years. This, however, does not mean that we are coming to an end as a congregation. Far from it! What it does mean, however, is that if we want to continue to live, we have to shift how we be in the world.
I want to acknowledge today that we have a lot of work to do as a congregation in the next couple of years, as we lean into God’s guidance around the “Who’s, the What’s, the When’s, the Where’s, and the Why’s” of our Shift. After we get settled back into the sanctuary, I hope to start holding informal all-church gatherings on a monthly basis to work on our church’s calling to this Big Shift. These informal gatherings will be time for us to visit together first (over food when it’s safe!), and then engage in focused discussions around who we have been in the past, who we are now, and where God is leading us next. They will be important opportunities for us to find healing in our congregation (from the tumult of the last few years), to grow together as a body of Christ, and to decipher where God is leading us next.
I don’t know if you realize it or not, but we have a very special congregation– one that I believe God still has life to give to and purpose to engage in. We can find this life and this purpose, but it’s going to take commitment, courage, trust, openness, cooperation, time, energy, and grace from all of us.
The first step in this process, however, is to come back to the sanctuary for worship. This week, as we prepare to do just that, will you begin praying this prayer with me?
God, put us where you want us, and show us what to do.