I like to think of myself as a long term pastor. I was in rural PA for 7 ½ years. I was pastor at 1st Presbyterian,
This will be a bit of a struggle about how much to reveal about my relationship with the church in
For the first time in my life I was a head of staff.
I continued teaching Kerygma classes, including Beginnings, a class on Genesis, Discovering the Bible, an introductory Bible class, Interpretation, a deeper class on how to interpret the Bible, and Hallelujah, a class on Handel’s Messiah. I urge any pastor to consider the Kerygma classes. I also wrote my own class on Mark a class built on the Kerygma model, classes on The Book of Confessions using Jack Rogers’ wonderful book, Presbyterian Creeds: A Guide to the Book of Confessions, and a series of small group Bible studies. All in all I had a blast teaching. And, as most teachers do, I think I learned much more than the students.
At first I had a great deal of support for change, but I didn’t rush into things. My two installed predecessors had lasted 2 ½ years and 10 month respectively and both had resigned but really had been forced out. So I took the process of change very, very slowly. We did experiment with different types of worship on Pentecost each year and incorporated some of the changes into regular worship.
In the long run we started using the Logos Program for youth, a midweek program that included recreation, education, worship education, (mainly a musical experience like choirs), and dinner. It was fun. The high school youth started a rock band that played in worship occasionally and was well accepted by the congregation. This unfortunately led to conflict with the Women’s Association.
And yes I did weddings, funerals and baptisms.
One of the best things about
One of the big controversies in
I took on some responsibilities with the Synod serving first as a member of the Personnel Committee and then as chair of the committee. I was chair of the committee through a rancorous downsizing of staff. It was a heartrending experience.
The biggest spiritual issues in the my time in Oneida, before the last two years, was that my wife became ill and spent 6 weeks in the hospital and later my daughter became ill and besides her time in the hospital, was ill for almost a year.
As John pointed out when we first started this dialogue I was an Evangelical in what, from my point of view, was a progressive presbytery. The good news was that, for the most part I was respected and heard. The presbytery rarely voted my way on important issues but that didn’t stop me from being respected and accepted. And I had one very close friend who was my spiritual advisor and I his. We probably knew more about each other than our wives did.
BUT! There was a curious dynamic of conflict in the congregation. I expected this and tried to encourage new styles of dealing with conflict, for the most part unsuccessfully. We got new hymnals but kept the old ones and I tried to use hymns from both, but some people didn’t accept the new hymnal at all. They wouldn’t sing the hymns if they were from the new hymnal. We tried a new method of serving the Lord’s Supper, coming forward to receive the sacrament. Some loved the new method. Some wanted only the old method, being served in the pews. We had a successful negotiation about this, having a congregational wide survey which helped people to not only state their emotional/spiritual reasons for wanting to receive communion in a particular way but also to make theological statements on the issue.
We also had a successfully resolved conflict about change in the chapel. We formed a task force of people who disagreed about how to use and set up the chapel and they came up with an elegant solution that was different than any suggested by any of the sides earlier and satisfied all sides. Unfortunately all problems were not so easily solved.
I started a DMin program at Pittsburgh Seminary in 1997. I loved it. I had spent too much time on administration and not enough on theology. The program gave me the balance.
In the spring of 2000 things came to a head. I had started training small group leaders to encourage spiritual renewal as part of my DMin project and talked with the Session about spiritual renewal. In the meantime I made the mistake of paying attention to the new members of the congregation who wanted change and not paying attention to the needs of older members. Finally, after we called in people from the Committee on Ministry the Session asked for my resignation. But with a twist.
My daughter had another year in high school. The Session allowed me a year to find a new call so my daughter could finish high school in
After several interviews all over the country, I ultimately accepted a call to a congregation in
Suffice it to say that it was a bad parting. We sold our house and we moved to a church in
I will talk about that next time.