Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,
It is said that the first year a pastor is with a congregation she can do no wrong. The second year, she can do nothing right. This hyperbolic saying has already been proven wrong in our case as I have made more than a few missteps in our first year together. Looking ahead, I hope I manage to get something right during this second year! What has been clear though is that through whatever happens to SOV, we are in this together. And when individuals and families discern that this community of faith is no longer a fit for where they are in their journey, our prayers and support go with them. At the same time God continues to bring new faces through the doors of the Grange and for those who seek an active role in a faith community are finding a home here. Thanks be to God!
In June Patrick Doyle and I attended our first New England Synod Assembly yet enjoyed encounters with plenty of friends of SOV from over the years. Bob and Diane Guerin jumped right in with their new congregation in Rhode Island and attended the assembly, not even a year after leaving SOV. Pastor Jerry Janesko (transition pastor before I arrived) celebrated his 50th Anniversary of Ordination. Pastor Steph Smith (interim pastor from SOV’s early years) was at an information table about Cathedral in the Night, the ministry she is called to in Northampton. And another person we met at dinner recalled being a seminarian who used to help lead worship back when SOV only existed as worshipping community out of St. John’s Lutheran in Sudbury, meeting in the basement at First Parish in Groton.
The theme of the assembly was Get Off Your Donkey with a focus on leadership. We heard references to parable of the Good Samaritan throughout worship, keynote addresses, ministry reports and workshop sessions. The Good Samaritan was identified as someone who got off his donkey and addressed the needs he saw around him. He was lifted up as a leader – one who we might follow to get off of our proverbial donkeys. It was not the men with the official leadership roles who interrupted their daily routines to have compassion on the one left to die on the side of the road. It was the least likely person. If you have never seen yourself as a leader, you just might be surprised by how God might be calling you to do something different. If you have been in more formal leadership roles, what might be ways that you can get off that donkey and see those around you differently?
During what is often a quiet period in some churches with lower worship attendance on Sundays as people go on vacation and spend time away, the story of the Good Samaritan helps me see things in a different way. If being church is getting off our donkeys to serve those in our midst, summer is full of the hustle and bustle of being church: mission trips, VBS, events to invite new people to be in relationship with us. Summer provides ways to embody God’s presence in new ways, getting us out of our regular routines. Let us be good stewards of the gifts God has given to us to serve our neighbors.