What a busy year we have had since we have last gathered for our Charge Conference. Our life in ministry has been challenged and sustained by God’s Holy Spirit.
We have been challenged to look for new ways of understanding the presence of God in our troubled world and then working to make our understanding actual in being “Doer’s”, people who Act in ministry to the world. This has played out for us as we have supported a large number of ministries in our community and through our denomination.
We have been part of the support system for the Rising Hope Recovery team which has been established with ecumenical support to help the Merrick district of our town continue to recover from the June 2011 tornado. We saw first hand the way our United Methodist people from Maine and New Hampshire bring so much hope and joy into their work repairing homes. We participated in their ministry by organizing meals for them and helping with some small tasks.
One of the significant changes in our life together was marked by the sale of the former First UMC building on Main Street in the Merrick section of town.
I send my sincere thanks to the trustees who did an excellent job preparing the building for sale, and dealing with the many details that arise. It took so many people to make the sale a reality, and I thank each one of them, but I would be remiss if I did not express my sincere thanks to the Trustee Chairperson, David Barnes, for his dedicated and work, to ensure the sale of the building represented the ministry desires of the church, and was faithful to the history of the congregation. He took hours and hours of his life in meetings and following up on concerns, so that the sale could go forth. The church building will continue to be used as a place of worship and ministry and the new owners have agreed to be part of the many ecumenical ministries which have been based there. The trustees will be presenting the proceeds of the sale to the church today, and in the future we will be seeking wisdom and ways of using, and investing the money for the future work of Christ’s church. A tithe of 10% will be set aside to continue to ministry in the Main Street area of our town, honoring those who established, maintained and helped that congregation to minister to others.
We must always be forward thinking and acting and we have certainly struggled to understand what that means to us in this present age. Recently in conversation about leadership several people shared that they need to be in roles that offer ministry and also feed their own faith journey. This is a challenge because like many places in society today, we finding it difficult to encourage others to lead. We know that if we can move into roles that mean something to us then that will translate into better leaders and leaders who recapture their joy in faith. We hope to really find new ways of building disciple leaders who are filled to the brim with the joy of their faith and want to share it.
I feel good about so many things that we are connecting with in our ministry, yet I tell you that there are times when I feel a great weight of sadness that we have not seen growth in our congregation. While we affirm many things about our congregation we must also look deeply at what our ministry is offering and how we can enhance it so that it welcomes others. I do not want to weigh us down with a sense of failure, neither do I want us to ignore that our church continues to be at a place of danger for its future. I continue to pray about this and look for new idea which will be signs of the “Aliveness” that I know is possible here. I also believe that God through the Holy Spirit wants to partner us as we offer the future up.
This year I have continued to be active in the Ecumenical work of our town and have been blessed with great friendships in the other pastors I have worked with.
I have had less time this year for training but I am scheduled to attend the Winter Clergy Gathering in January and I continue with 3 or 4 study retreats each year. The next one will also be in January, and I expect to attend some workshops in the Spring, after Easter.
On a personal note, I have received a great deal of support for my ministry here and I am deeply thankful for it. You have been affirming of the gifts I bring and gentle with me in the places where I am not gifted. Thank you and I pray that God will bless us as we continue to seek God’s will for our life together.
I have met many people here who are truly Acting on the Ministry laid out for us and I thank each of you. Many of you do things that are not seen or known to others, but which gift people in many ways. I ask that you continue to pray for our congregation, our District Superintendent our Bishop, and all the clergy and laity of the United Methodist Church that we who are called to Act in the name of and for the sake of Jesus Christ may be filled with all good things and in all things give thanks and praise to God.
Blessing to all,
Karen E. Gutowski, Pastor