Wasn’t that a refrain from an old Carly Simon song? OK, I just dated myself, but that’s ok. It is an apt sentiment for this moment in our life. No, it isn’t nostalgia or the arrogance of expecting things to come easy. We know how hard it is to be the church today. So many churches falter.
Six years ago this month I candidated here to become your pastor. We knew much would be required. FCC had been through much. We’ve worked so hard and come far over six years. This is not bragging or gloating, because our gains are more by God’s grace than by our merit. But we have made remarkable efforts, and given God room to deploy his generous gifts among us.
We picked ourselves up off the mat in our first few years together. But as we put the stain of conflict behind us, we looked united toward the future. That’s what happens as human beings no longer make themselves the center of things, and allow the Lord God to occupy that place. It unfolded in worship as we rebuilt trust, made room for joy, and looked to Christ as the center of our faith. It occurred as more new members than I expected migrated our way. Why was I surprised? I was flying nearly solo. We were staffed at a level to plateau, not at a level to grow.
We also had major distractions, such as our roof nearly caving in. You responded with aplomb.
Things are so different now. If my calling is to put in place pieces to fortify our praise and service such that FCC thrives, we are right now as much at that moment as I could have ever hoped for.
Gary’s boundless, open-hearted enthusiasm has galvanized our youth and touched our hearts. Also, he has been through the church calendar twice as we now look to his ordination this fall. Christine’s warmth, initiative, faithfulness and competence have already turned heads, rallying young families and shoring up gaps in our ministry to children and middle schoolers. What’s more, 26 households, mostly young families, have already pledged new dollars for 2018, even before Pledge Sunday, to cover all increases of her expanded hours over the previous position.
Dennis Hanlon has gamely fought through losing his beloved Gloria in such a way that he shines brightly with new energy. Dennis has rented out our building for 2018 to the tune of $25,000 new dollars. (I don’t measure ministry in dollars but do want you to know we pay our way as we go!) Pam Toason has proved a bright light in our office and grows in her skills with experience.
Dan Hague and Max Pakhomov respond to our resurgent Music Committee with new initiative and fresh ideas. Karen Hanson is bedrock in our Treasurer’s office, so solid and faithful is she. Teri Manning remains the pillar of the Nursery School, building this new future along with us. Carlos Maya takes such evident pride in caring for our building as though it were his own home.
I could equally go on about our lay leaders. But here’s the thing: we are now staffed for growth, to do great ministry, and welcome new friends. I charge us to seize the moment. How? Start by sharing the joy at our 10 am Welcome Back Jazz Sunday. Expect lively worship, a resurgent Church School, and a festive picnic. These are the good old days, friends. God blesses us for the task ahead. Let us answer with deep joy. Remember, joy is not a distraction from the spiritual life, too often depicted as no more than finger-wagging or scolding. Joy is the heart of our faith.