Florence Congregational Church
Thursday, January 18, 2018
A Place to Connect

March News From the Pastor

 

Blessings to you!  First, let me thank you for your blessing of my mini-Sabbatical.  During the six-week Sabbatical journey, I visited five churches (with Brenda joining me for three) where I was able to purely worship the Lord.  These were great experiences.  Additionally I attended the Bangor Theological Convocation in Bangor and my last Doctor of Ministry seminar in Saco.  The majority of the remaining hours were focused on writing the Project Report for the seminary.  I worked on this report most of fifty hours a week throughout the Sabbatical.  I also enjoyed the absence from technology – setting aside email, texts and phone calls.   Second, let me thank all of you who contributed to our Christmas Gift(s) from the congregation.

 

 I am pleased to have had the opportunity to step back from my daily tasks.  To my delight, this allowed me to observe our work as a congregation from a broader perspective and to evaluate our goals.  These activities have not only encouraged and energized me, but also moved me to speak more specifically to our purposes of ministry here at Florence Congregational Church.  I shared some of these thoughts and concerns on February 10 within my sermon.  Few heard these words due to the low attendance following the Blizzard of 2013, and so I share a few notes here:

 
 

Over the last few weeks (during the Sabbatical) I thought a lot about,

 

·        The decline of the mainline church in America, and the state of our church.

 

·        The weariness of people trying to make things work and keep up with all the doing.

 

·        The reluctance to change in the church in response to the rapidly changing cultural context.

 

·        How easy it is to become mired in the “way things have always been done.”

 

·        The willingness to adopt the survival and preserve approach versus thrive and be alive

 

·        The need to listen to God more intentionally.

 

·        The work of discerning God’s call of us to his plans and purpose.

 
 

On Sunday, following our Ash Wednesday service (on February 13th), February 17th I shared the message, “Who Shapes Your Identity.”  I spoke to Jesus’ journey in the wilderness for forty-days where he was challenged and tested by the devil.  We looked at our own journey of faith.  I shared thoughts on the significance of our own Lenten Journey with Christ.  And I asked the members in attendance lots of questions.  Several in attendance, asked if the sermon and the questions I had asked might be made available.  They are included in this newsletter.

 

 

As we continue our work together, I must also clarify another point.  The Doctor of Ministry degree program at Bangor Theological Seminary is designed for the local church.  The purpose and goal of the D-Min candidate is to work with his/her local church at a project aimed at fostering renewal within the church setting.  Thus, the focus of the project is determined by careful discernment of the church Site Team set up at the beginning of the degree program.  Several members of the church have labored for 2 ½ years with me on the project.  The specific detail work of the team is complete.  I am in the process of writing the “Project Report” which represents and analysis and evaluation of our work together.  My response to the work of the Site Team is profound appreciation.  Thank You.

 
Although the team itself will not meet formally, I believe each participant has grown in his or her faith journey.We have learned a lot about each other, the church and the work God is calling us to do.  We have engaged in spiritual formation practices that have brought refreshment and renewal to our bodies, minds and spirits.  

 

So what’s next?  Stepping back from the norm during the Sabbatical allowed me more time to be quiet with God.  I believe God is calling me to respond…Calling us to ask new questions… To listen more intently… and to consider what is next for us as the Florence Congregational Church.  I have proposed within the first draft of the Project Report a timeline of discovery, vision and intentional engagement beginning now through the fall of 2015.  During this time, I hope to guide you to discover God in new and creative ways… to serve God’s plans and purposes, and to rekindle relationship building within the church and community.  Are you ready?

 

 

In Christ, Pastor Irv

 

 

 

Florence Congregational Church • 130 Pine Street, Florence, Massachusetts 01062 • 413.584.1325
 

 

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