Pastors Message – November/December, 2017

Dear Friends,

The year is fast coming to a close. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.

At this writing I am hopeful that we will be able to present our Mission Study to Presbytery on Nov. 7. When approved we will be able to elect the Pastor Nominating Committee and begin the search for a new settled pastor.

This has been quite a year. One of turmoil, and dissension in both our country and throughout the world. The weather seemed to respond to the sense of upheaval and angst with fires and floods the likes of which were unknown in modern history.

We may wonder “What is going on?” Whatever it is, it is effecting the world “out there” and our world “in here” namely our church.

Several months ago Rocky Peters sent me an email proposing that we look at the church from a height of 30,000 feet. It was a lovely and insightful message suggesting that we look at the church from a business model perspective. (I have included it in our Mission Study.)

I think it is important that we look at the church, not just the church, but all faith communities, from a height of at least 30,000 feet, and with a broad historical perspective.

To this end I would like to mention two people who have given much time and thought to getting a handle on what is going on and what to do about it; one is British Rabbi, scholar and philosopher Jonathan Sachs, the other, Paul Nixon a United Methodist Minister and author of the book, “I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church.”

I will briefly try to describe their perspectives, but I invite you to go to to view Rabbi Sacks recent talk at the Chautauqua Institute, and I will have copies of Paul Nixon’s article in the church office. If you do not have access to the Rabbi’s talk, I would be pleased to have you view it in the office.

But very briefly, Sacks believes that “we are going through one of the most profound revolutions in all of human history and he summed that up as “Cultural Climate Change.” As actual climate change alters weather conditions, cultural climate change is “causing a series of storms in the West” that will “upend conventional notions of faith and the role of religion in society.” He says that religion is the great source of community in the contemporary world, and that without religion, the sense of collective responsibility, of sacrificing for one another in a covenantal relationship, all of which are necessary in a society, would be lost. And that history has shown that when a civilization becomes more secular, consumerist, and individualist, there is a decline in faith, and a subsequent decline in birthrate. Examples given include ancient Greece, Imperial Rome, and Renaissance Italy and even present day Europe. Thus he argues that when a civilization loses its religion it also loses its families, communities and its society. Sobering and thought provoking.

Paul Nixon on the other hand, looks at hundreds of churches in the United States in the last 20 years. We can see that we are not alone in the decline of membership and programs, and the increase in empty classrooms. And as Nixon writes and as we well know, we have gone beyond “the season for tweaking and quick fixes” and that “business as usual is not a viable option,” but there are resources for hope available.

Again, I urge you learn more about these broad 30,000 foot perspectives. The good news that both Rabbi Sachs and Rev. Paul Nixon leave us with, is that there is hope and endless possibility. And that is the same message that we as a church must broadcast to the world.

And in the meantime, come to worship, support one another and love one another. As you prepare for this busy time of year, keep moments for appreciation and gratitude. Call a friend you haven’t seen for a while and invite him or her to come to church with you. Discern your talents and your gifts and how they might best be used to serve this community and this world.

May the Peace of Christ be with you,

Pastor Beth

Pastors Message – September/October, 2017

Rev. Beth Frigard

Rev. Beth Frigard

Dear Friends,

Summer is quickly coming to a close. Where has the time gone? On September 12th I will have been your interim pastor for a year during which time I have enjoyed getting to know you and learning about your church. This year we were also steadily meeting the requirements set by the Presbytery regarding the search process. It may feel as though there are many hoops to jump through, but each serves an important purpose as you begin the search for a new pastor.

Several times I have mentioned the Mission Study which we are required to complete and have approved by Presbytery before we can elect a Pastor Nominating committee. So far, in fulfilling the requirement, we have completed a Ten Year Trends Chart, a comprehensive statistical study ranging from membership numbers to number of baptisms, to mission giving and pledging. We have also completed the required Three Year Financial Statement. Through letters and from the pulpit we have learned about the Church Life Cycle and seen where on this chart the church finds itself. We also have learned of Church Size Theory and where we believe the church to be. We are also working on a Review of the Geography and Demographics of the Big Flats and surrounding communities.

On a recent Sunday we focused on creating a new Mission Statement, the North Star, leading to where you hope to be in terms of your calling, your purpose and your responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ. We have learned about Family Systems Theory and have seen how the church is indeed a family, and how it might best handle anxiety and conflict among its members.

Another task is that we write a Narrative, the story of the church which gives us a comprehensive view of the churches history as we look ahead to its future. To help us to do this we need to create a Timeline. I have completed the years 1827- 1960, volunteers are working on subsequent decades. Some information is easier to obtain that others. Your help is is needed! For the 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s the 2000’s we need your memories of the church, any issues that might have arisen, the style of ministry, or any highlights, anything that can cast a light on church life at that time. You can email me, or stop by the office. We also need to do an extensive review of our facilities.

Visioning and writing our Future Story is ongoing. I have distributed a sheet to help in this process. Copies can be found in the back of the church.

We cannot elect a Pastor Nominating Committee until our Mission Study has been approved by Presbytery, but we can prayerfully consider whom we might ask to serve. If there is someone you think should be on the PNC or if you would like to be considered, please let me know. A basic requirement has to do with time commitment since it could prove to be a long process, and it is essential that members be present at the meetings. I am hopeful that members would be spiritually grounded, patient, positive, thoughtful, open-minded, and good listeners. A sense of humor might also be helpful.

We are truly moving ahead in this process and we need all you to be willing and active participants. This past week a comprehensive Pastor Search Survey was distributed to the congregation. If you have not yet done so, please complete and return to the church. A stamped envelope has been provided.

And please join us on September 10, for Rally Day Sunday as we kick off a new church year. Bring friends and family. All are welcome! The Timeline will be on the wall of the Church House for you to study, reminisce over and add to. There will be a play area for the children. And, of course, cake and ice cream Sundaes will be served. Come, we will be waiting for you.

As the poet Rumi wrote,

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.”

Pastor Beth