A Tale of Two Pastors

They are both colleagues of mine, and both hold the dubious distinction of beginning new jobs on the day the world shut down last year.  Both began serving new congregations Sunday March 15, 2020, the first day their church was closed.  You can imagine how difficult this would be, for both pastor and parishioner.  Picture yourself getting excited about your new minister coming to town, perhaps wanting to show him or her (one is a him, one is a her) off to your friends and community.  And yet here we are, fully one year later, and you still haven’t met your pastor in person.  He or she may come off well on Zoom, but it’s just not the same.  By the same token, it is difficult for me to imagine having been your pastor for an entire year and not having met any of you – well, perhaps a handful, but no more than that – in person yet.

Nor was their experience the same.  One of them took up the challenge with gusto and thrived.  She made some choices I wouldn’t have – she decided it was important for her to lead worship from the sanctuary so the congregation would have a familiar sense of worship even with an unfamiliar person leading it - but they were the right ones for her.  She wrote the other day about all the things she learned about herself and her congregation over a year of distancing.  I applaud her success.

The other left his new church after ten months.  He had trouble connecting with people virtually.  He is a good preacher – I’ve watched his services.  But he found it very difficult to make meaningful relationships with people from a distance.  It wasn’t all on him either; the congregation chafed at some of the restrictions he followed, which were part of the denominational guidelines.  And the chafing led to the congregation trying to reopen, too soon, as it wound up, and responsibility for the fits-and-starts was laid at his feet, even though it was a two-way street.  I know he is not alone.  More than a few of my colleagues have found themselves questioning their calls, being buffeted by conflicting impulses, or simply getting burned out in the past year.

I write this as another way of saying how much I appreciate this congregation’s patience with our United Church staff as we have navigated this pandemic.  It has been a challenging time for us all, but your good humor, your encouragement and your support have meant a lot to us all.  This is yet another trait that makes us truly a United Church.

Sunday March 14, 2021 Bulletin

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