by Kathye Hamm
More and more of late, I have been invited to be a part of conversations with pastors and congregational leaders about the sustainability of the ministry in which they have been called to lead and serve. Concerns have been expressed about diminishing resources of people and financial gifts which had been a significant part of their ministry over the years. Some of the people of these congregations express concern that the majority of their members are getting older, and fewer younger people seem interested in joining.
Actually, I have been having these conversations for about 8½ years, ever since I began to serve in the Office of the Bishop. But lately, an idea, a conversation, a hope is being expressed that I haven’t always heard before. Congregations which have existed near each other are beginning to talk, really talk, about ways they can collaborate more in their ministry. Some are talking about mergers, some are talking about sharing pastors and program staff, some are considering working with full-communion partner congregations (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, etc.) nearby. All are seeking ways to be less “siloed” and more connected as they consider new ways of working together in their witness and service to the communities in which they are located.
I expect we will learn to adapt to new and changing ways of sharing the love of Christ in this time as we see more and more of these conversations about multiple point ministries leading congregations to let go of their fears about losing their identity as they trust the work of the Spirit to honor and celebrate their history and unique witness as they live into a new future. Below are a list of congregations in our synod which are already living into such a future, some for a relatively short period of time, some for many years now. If you would like to learn from these sisters and brothers about their journey of collaborative ministry, contact the congregation and ask what they have learned that might be of help to you as you prayerfully discern your congregation’s future.
Christ Lutheran in Fortuna and Our Savior Lutheran in Ferndale, sharing a pastor
Trinity Lutheran in Fort Bragg, sharing the ministry of an Episcopalian Priest with St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church
Holy Trinity Lutheran and St. Paul Lutheran, both in Vallejo, sharing a pastor
Unity Lutheran – a merger of three congregations on the Peninsula south of San Francisco
Truckee Lutheran Presbyterian Church
Shepherd by the Sea Episcopal-Lutheran Mission in Gualala
Faith Lutheran in Murphys and Mountain Ranch Lutheran in Mountain Ranch, sharing a pastor
Gethsemane Lutheran of Carmichael and Lutheran Church of
Our Redeemer, Sacramento, sharing a pastor
Epiphany Lutheran Episcopal Church, Marina
The East Bay Lutheran Parish – five congregations working together to offer youth and family ministry and a ministry to those in nursing homes in the East Bay
If you’re already in a conversation with a neighboring congregation, I’d like to hear about it! If you’d like to talk about how to get such a conversation started, let us know, we’d be happy to be of help. Better yet, just pick up the phone and call your neighboring congregation, then break some bread together, say some prayers, share some hopes, and see where the Spirit might lead you!
Bishop Mark W. Holmerud
April 25, 2017
April 18, 2017
April 11, 2017