One of the courses for the fall is "Teaching Parish with Integrative Seminar" which is a heavy phrase for being assigned to work in a parish and getting together to talk about ministry. We were asked to fill out a form which was just basic information ( name, address, age, contact info) and prior employment and involvement within the Lutheran church ( if you are ELCA). We were asked to identify any other considerations that we felt might be important.
My home parish has been the Church of the Really Big Deal which has two pastors, a music director, a full time office administrator, 15 members of the Church Council, two services, Sunday school classes for all ages including 3 each Sunday for adults, five choirs, two bell choirs, Wed programming for youth, two weekly Bible studies, and we are the home for multiple support groups extending outside our parish. We own real estate in town and outside of town where we have a place in the woods that has pavilion with a full kitchen and full bath facilities. We have about 335 active members.
My candidacy committee indicated that since this was my reality for the last 17 years, it would be beneficial for me to experience a smaller church setting. So I indicated this on my form.
Yesterday's class was kind of like a blind date. You are waiting to meet the person who has been matched to you. I do not know how sophisticated the process is, but as I watched other people leaving with their matches, and especially since I knew some of these pastors, I could see it looked like a good fit.
Finally, it was my turn, and I have been matched with a vibrant pastor who I have been told is a "hoot." And my parish worships about 80 a Sunday at one service. I have checked out to see that they have a website, and a long history dating back to 1800. They are a rural location and it looks like, as with many churches, there was a heyday, but a few years ago, the rolls were adjusted like many parishes have done.
It looks like after that there was a downturn and now growth is beginning anew.
I am sure that there are stories to be learned. While it might be easy to get out my rose-colored glasses and begin to envision quaint people and surroundings, I suspect that I will find, just as in my own congregation, there are core workers, others who just show up, hopes and dreams, petty slights and disaappointments. In fact one thing that has amazed me in my home parish is when I would hear about some disagreement between members where the end result was that someone continued to come to church mad for years ( as opposed to going somewhere else).
So this Sunday I will be introduced and "installed." And next Sunday I will robe up and roll up my sleeves to work and learn.
I hope I remember to talk less and listen more, and to be slow to reach conclusions, and to see Christ in each person I meet.
Those of you in smaller parishes, if there is any pearl of wisdom you can share I would be grateful.