Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Nugget, Jan 2006

Just being here among you is a joy!
Unending thank-yous
rise within me
for these beloved ones
within your Church, O God.
Blessed be their lives!
Blessed be your Church!
(Ann Weems, Searching For Shalom)

The past year has been one of the most significant in the long history of this congregation. And the church’s history has indeed been long – in 2006 we will celebrate our 140th Anniversary as a congregation.

In the past year, the church said goodbye to not just one, but two pastors who had served the church very well during their time here. In my many home visits, again and again words of appreciation and gratitude have been spoken about the ministries of both Brenda Brown and John Randlett. Their good work is evident in the health and vitality of this church. Saying goodbye to them was a difficult experience for this church. It will be one of the ways that 2005 will be remembered.

The past year will also be remembered as the year we said goodbye to several people who were loved and appreciated and whose deaths have left a void in our hearts and in our church. All these losses thrust this congregation into a time of significant transition as we were forced to examine ourselves, see what we are made of, what our mission is, and where we are headed.

In the midst of all that, 2005 was a year during which we invested significant energy in consideration of becoming an “Open and Affirming Congregation.” It was a process that got everyone’s attention, and helped us see the difficulty but the importance of relating to one another in regard to a controversial matter. Our decision to table the matter was frustrating for some (on both sides!), but has enabled us to turn our attention to other important things. When we will return to a formal consideration of ONA is undetermined.

It appears that 2006 will be as important a year as 2005 was. In the coming year our search committee will continue their important work of finding a new settled pastor for this congregation. Nothing First Congregational Church does in the coming year will be any more important than finding the right person to be the church’s next pastor.

This is not to diminish the importance of the transitional work we are doing during this Interim time. The ways we are evaluating our life together, and are continuing to support the programs and ministries of the church are very important. 2006 must be a time of giving attention to our life together, and focusing our efforts on the goals that we have before us, which were honed during our planning retreat back in October.

One of the best ways we can support the Search Committee’s work in 2006 is by making sure our church life remains strong and healthy and that all our many activities and programs are supported.

This congregation is poised to make 2006 a year of building for the future, a future that will be the best yet. As good as our life is now, and has been in recent years, the future can be even brighter! It will take the best we have to offer, with prayer and guidance from the God who loves us and will be with us, come what may.

Thank you very much for your fine support of me as your Interim Pastor. And special thanks for all the many gifts of love that were given to Cindy and me during the recent Christmas season. The cards, well wishes and the many goodies were appreciated very much. I look forward to serving you in the coming year as long as I am needed. It is a great privilege to be with you and to enjoy the wonderful life that is yours as Murphys First Congregational Church.

Steve Shepard
Interim Pastor

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