August 15, 2018
“You were trained for a world that is disappearing.”
“If you can adapt and adventure, you can thrive.”
“But, you must let go, learn as you go and keep going no matter what.”
“In uncharted territory, trust is as essential as the air we breathe.”
In his book Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, Dr. Tod Bolsinger gives us a few guideposts along our journey of transition and transformation. His quotes ring in my heart as we faithful walk and trip our way, like Lewis and Clark, to our destination. As a congregation, many of us have brought our canoes a mighty long way, hoping we will glide down a crystal river to the ocean. We are doing so based on the best information we know and based on our experience. Ahead of us, however are mountains. And no thread of a river. Just mountains. As one of your leaders, I must courageously share that canoes have served us well, but a new mode of forward motion is required.
Plymouth Church will continue forward with one worship opportunity in September as we begin our church calendar year. After much prayer and discernment, we will celebrate worship together on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
As Lead Pastor, I am very aware that our church managed and thrived through so many changes. Somehow, together over the past couple of years, we squeezed 10 pounds of worship, faith formation and community-building “potatoes” into a five-pound bag! In less than four hours, we fit in two worship services, intergenerational faith formation, brunches, lunches, congregational meetings, choir rehearsals, pastoral care and so many other activities sandwiched between worship. And while I suppose there’s a certain measure of success in having achieved such a menagerie of good and needed things, many things were left out that I deem important to the life of the church.
There have been no Bible studies on Sundays since Courtney Hashimoto’s Bible study. There was no time to do adequate justice in new members’ preparation. No time for creativity and imagination while the staff continuously did their very best to stay within a well-loved box. No time for worship participants to convene, review and pray. It has been a stressful couple of years in terms of worship preparation, and as the one responsible for worship, I have feared that the anxiety-orientation would overtake the beauty and freedom of worshiping God in spirit and truth.
This decision is one of freedom. This decision is about making room for other worship opportunities we imagine. With one service on Sunday mornings, I and the staff now have the time and breath of energy to imagine Friday or Saturday night worship service. We now have the room to impart many creative and fulfilling intergenerational faith formation opportunities. We can bring back Jazz vespers! We can bring back Spark and invite the many voices that bless our work here at Plymouth! There will be room for the Chancel Choir, Soul Choir, ensembles and instrumentalists and for many other available music opportunities. Perhaps we’ll start our worship day at 9 a.m. with yoga one day, and Tai Chi another, meditation, singing and ritual. The sky is the limit!
Dear Plymouth, we are on a path together, and I contend we are moving slowly, gently toward healing and wholeness. Of course, this doesn’t mean there hasn’t been loss. This doesn’t mean that some of us haven’t experienced whiplash from tossing and turning over the last few years. It does mean that courageously, we have banded together to see this church through, with God as our helper. It does mean that with God’s compassion and lovingkindness, Plymouth Church will cross mountains and forge the path for others to follow. We are shepherds, sojourners, advisors, accountability partners and people of faith. Let us journey on. Thanks be to God! —Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown