From the Pastor
One of my duties as interim co-pastor is to converse with members and former members in an attempt to determine how the congregation got from “there” to “here.” (The starting place is the decline in membership and worship attendance since 2012.)
I started by contacting as many former members as I could and asking them to share with me their reasons for leaving Messiah. This information helps Pastor Norma and me (and you) chart a course of future action that will minimize the number of people who leave the congregation and provide a key to what qualities your next pastor might need to relate to and serve Messiah Lutheran Church. I also spoke with current active members about their love and support for this congregation and how much it meant to them.
So, here are my preliminary findings after about three months of calling, visiting, and talking with former members as I encounter them:
First, the primary reason that most of the former members became former was disappointment and unhappiness with the ELCA for any number of its policy decisions. The decision of the ELCA to approve the ordination of Gay and Lesbian persons in a committed relationship troubled many folks. Some were opposed to the ELCA support for Palestine, others could not accept the denomination’s support for gun control, and some were upset by the ELCA’s acceptance of clergy divorce and abortion rights. The interesting thing I learned was that a large number of these people remained with the congregation for some time, hoping that something would change. Several of these people expressed their sorrow at leaving the congregation that had been their church home.
After that, there were many reasons given for leaving. Some of the former members expressed having a problem with the decisions made by the leadership and felt disconnected from the leadership. They did not feel they had been heard when they expressed their concerns. Some had simply drifted away from the Church as has been happening in many denominations. And, of course, there were those who moved or experienced a life-style change such as aging, illness, or divorce.It is important to understand that these conversations were with a limited number of folks and certainly do not represent the wonderful and solid support given this congregation by its current active members. This is a strong congregation with a bright future. This interim period is an opportunity to learn from the past and prepare for new clergy leadership that will move the community of faith into an even greater realization of purpose.
OK, that’s enough of that. I’ll leave you with a quote to ponder: “I used to be a Lutheran. They take God very seriously.” -Czarina Alexandra in “Nicholas and Alexandra”, speaking to Rasputin.
June 17, 2018
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