On Sunday, September 22nd, the council and I announced to the congregation a new ministry partnership that is in the works with Amherst Lutheran Church. The current pastor of Amherst, Dave Ellis, is retiring in December after almost 18 years of ministry in that place.
Originally, I had been invited to meet with Pastor Ellis as his retirement approached to think through with him the future of Amherst. But the more I got to know Pastor Ellis and the congregation of Amherst from the stories he told, the more I began to wonder if there was a way we could work together, and even share our mission and ministry. Pretty soon, as much as I tried to ignore it, I became convinced there was something of the Holy Spirit at work in our conversations.
Like us, Amherst who is similar in size to our congregation, is very good at taking care of each other, especially when times are hard. They know how to show up for each other in the same way I have seen all of you show up for each other time and time again. They are also extremely generous with what they have to offer, in the same I have watched all of your generosity over the years. They have a heart for the gospel and they get great joy out of being together week after week. Just like all of you.
And so it wasn’t long before Pastor Ellis and I decided together that maybe there was something more to our conversations and our congregations’ futures than what either one of us had expected when we started talking. With the help of a consultant we both trust and after the meeting of a couple of council members, we decided it was in both our congregations’ best interests to move towards sharing a pastor (i.e. me) in 2020.
The hope is, that beginning with Ash Wednesday on February 26, 2020, Prince of Peace and Amherst can begin to move towards a shared staff and a shared mission. It would begin with committing to sharing me for a year. If that went well, we would move towards sharing more staff over the next year (musician, administrator) and participating in each other’s events. And if after a year all was still good, we would talk about sharing a mission and vision, with the potential of becoming one entity in multiple locations.
As a congregation, your role in this process is to discern if this is where God may be calling us. We will hold another congregational meeting on November 3rd following worship, for the congregation to vote to authorize the council to make this relationship work and figure out the details. And yes, there are lots of details to figure out, especially when it comes to sharing a pastor. In the meantime, Pastor Ellis and I will do a pulpit exchange on October 6th and I will have a few other opportunities to be with the people of Amherst over the next month.
I know that change can spark fear, but I truly do believe this is the work of God. Pastor sharing helps our congregation financially as we are, at the end of July, about $10,000 behind our budget. Additionally, it provides us the opportunity to do more than we could ever dream of doing on our own, and allows us to reimagine once again what it means to be the body of Christ in the world.
The choice is before you during this next month of discernment. So ask questions, show up for worship, and dare to dream about a future with hope. And join us on November 3rd to participate in POP’s future.
Faithfully yours, Pastor Rebecca