Crossroads

October 2012

Whenever I tell people that I am the pastor of the First Church of Hadley they invariably ask me where it is and the conversation proceeds something like this: 

“Do you know where the town hall in Hadley is, right at the light?” 

“Yes.” 

“And you know the big white church right next to it with the beautiful steeple?” 

“Yes.” 

“That’s my church.” 

And it’s weird, because it’s not until I identify the building as my church that the light goes on in their head and they realize for the first time that the beautiful building they pass everyday on their way down route 9 is not some historical artifact with a handy time piece attached, but a real, living, and active church that is still going strong after all these years.

Every time I have this conversation, it makes me realize anew just how well positioned our church is to reach out to those who are searching for a community of faith. I have yet to describe where our church is and be met with a blank stare. Everyone knows our building. In fact, everyone loves our building. People go out of their way to tell me how impressed they are with our ability to care for our building, especially the work that’s been done most recently to restore our steeple. And increasingly, more and more people are taking a chance and coming on Sunday morning to see what exactly happens in our building when we gather for worship. 

This is a wonderful thing and to be expected, but at the same time I think we need to acknowledge that growth brings change, and even good changes that we think we want can be hard to assimilate. It’s wonderful to have so many people in worship, but it’s kind of a drag when you can’t find parking. It’s great to see so many new faces, but disorienting when you find yourself sitting in a totally different part of the sanctuary than you are used to, next to people you’ve never met. 

With growth also come bigger, institutional changes. The pastor is no longer as available as she once was and the cupcakes are sometimes gone before you get down to coffee hour. Sunday school rooms need to get rearranged to accommodate more children. Things aren’t necessarily where they used to be. But perhaps, most importantly, things aren’t necessarily like they used to be…and that’s hard. Even when it is good, it is still hard.

I think we need to acknowledge this even as we press on. We are deep in a state of transition, deep in the midst of change and growth whether we like it or not. Rick Ward, Lisa West, and hopefully a few others will be accompanying me to a U.C.C. sponsored workshop called “The Transition-Sized Church” on October 13th that should give us some useful information, but in the meantime, I’d like to offer up a few suggestions for us all as we navigate in the days ahead. 

First, consider some very practical things you can do to help us through this time. If you don’t have small children and personal mobility is not an issue, consider parking behind the library and/or sitting up in the balcony. Car pool to church and do something good for you and the planet. If you are feeling too crowded in the center pews, sit on the sides. (I’m only joking when I call those the penalty boxes.) 

If signing up to bring refreshments for our fellowship hour seems overwhelming given the increased numbers, sign up with a friend. Better yet, make a friend and then sign up together. Keep in mind that the best way to feel more comfortable around strangers is to get to know them so they don’t seem so strange anymore.  Introduce yourself before or after worship. Wear your name-tag. Invite a new person down to coffee hour and ask them what brought them to our church. After a few Sundays, invite them out or over to lunch. The more we get to know one another, the less strange all of this growth will seem. 

And finally, let’s keep talking to one another and above all, talking to God. Take time to talk with me or our deacons about your hopes and fears, ideas and frustrations.  We are here to listen and we don’t just value what you have to say, we need to know what you are thinking. And then pray. Pray for our church as we continue to move forward. Pray for your pastor and the leaders of the church as we seek to navigate all these changes. And pray for one another: for patience, for courage, for hearts open to God’s love and God’s leading. 

Our church is at a crossroads, both literally and figuratively. Let us proceed with caution, but let us proceed nevertheless, trusting that God will continue to guide us even as he guides more and more people to our door.

With great hope and much love,
Pastor Sarah