A Message From Our Interim Pastor
Hello, Rincon community!
I hope you’re enjoying these crisp autumnal mornings and evenings – and staying warm! As we tilt away from the sun, I love how the light changes every day on the mountains, always highlighting new angles and new perspectives on formations that (seem to) remain constant day after day, month after month, year after year. I hear that the winter light brings all new colors to them too! I can’t wait.
In many ways, this is a great analogy for an intentional interim period in a church. Our church. Your church.
In general, we are called to hold everything up to the light, but that’s especially true in an interim ministry period. We see what glows, and as we turn things around in relation to the source(s), we see how light is refracted, blocked, or amplified. By shifting angles, positions, and perspectives, we see things glow that might have been in shadow before, and we shade things that maybe need some time to rekindle. We take stock of everything, evaluating how we can ensure the light touches all it can with warmth and life.
All of these motions and observations and reflections are a process, which also makes this an exciting, vulnerable, and sometimes scary time (boo! Happy Halloween). The key to balance and clarity through it all is to collectively hold our “object” up to the light as much as possible. That doesn’t mean always (or ever) agreeing on which angle and opportunities provide the best illumination on the path forward, but it does mean we are centered in a shared purpose for determining that path.
I know Rincon has experienced much “de-centering” in our recent history. That destabilizing and separation and “thin” feeling as a collective body also gets inside us as individuals. We do our part, and do it well, but it might feel disconnected from the rest of what’s going on because the center around which we congregate became too diffuse (or became something else entirely).
Interim time is (re)centering time. It’s why I’ve been encouraging reflection and prayer on our Mission Statement these past few weeks – on our ‘why.’ On your why. Individually…and collectively.
Momentum has carried this church body over different seasons of peaks and valleys and every elevation in-between. Rituals and practices and participation in the daily life of the church are so important to sustaining momentum. At the same time, it’s important to climb the daily trees regularly, to get a look at the entire forest and see the overall momentum and trajectory. Right now, to give one example, the current momentum of the church is evident in decline of membership and money year over year. Those two things aren’t necessarily indicative of church health or how a church even should be defined, but it’s worth pointing out the pattern as we use this interim time to determine what growing forward means.
Does growing forward mean a boost in numbers? Young/er folks? Money? Evolving worship? Radically rethinking the use of our property? All of the above? None of the above? These are questions we will be asking and answering together in the next several months, starting very soon. They are critical not just to an interim process, but to the life and history and present and future of Rincon UCC. They’re why we are blessed with a liturgical consultant for the next three months, to teach us what’s possible and what we’re capable in our worship, and how to deepen those muscles as we name – collectively – our likes and dislikes. More importantly, we’ll be able to center ourselves around a question and answer that is key to growing forward: why do we worship the way we do, and why do we incorporate music into worship? From there, how do we feel called to incorporate a coherent flow of music and liturgy for all our members and friends and visitors? Finally, ‘what’ kind of liturgy and music we have will practically answer itself as we find ourselves centered around the different things that bring us each closer to God in corporate worship, but all point us towards our hitching post: the life-giving way of Jesus and how we express it in our mission statement. Everything else we do in our daily church life together is held up to the light to see if it refracts towards that, for as many of those who call Rincon home as possible.
Related to these ‘why’ questions and reflections: nowhere in our by-laws does it stipulate the length our church services are supposed to be. Now before I go on, let me say this: I know some services, like this letter, have gone on quite long – or rather, they have felt long to many of you. Some of that definitely has to do with the newness of transition and the time I wanted to take to observe the existing liturgy in place, and to build trust before following your lead in bringing forth ways that will address the spirit of our worship overall. Those things are starting to be brought forth now, and I believe these exercises in a more unified, coherent, and experiential liturgy will solve for much of what makes some services (or parts of them) seem to drag. We have to not only know, but feel in our spirits why we are going through this collective ceremony of worship and life. And indeed, to make sure we are fed with life through as much of it as possible.
At the same time, church attendance is a choice and a chance. It’s a chance to sit, sing, listen, reflect, pray, speak, and witness. It’s a chance to focus on the cross. Focusing on the clock gets in the way of that. So if things are dragging, it’s something we can solve for, and while services will be consistently getting shorter – or back to what they “used to be” – getting to an hour-long service is never going to be an end in and of itself if we’re there for the hitching post of the cross.
As ever, please do know that my door is open for setting up time to talk and listen through not just what you observe as working or not, but to talk through why and how you feel fed at Rincon – and how we can be growing that nourishment even more abundantly. It’s also time to talk more with each other in hope and love about what you want out of this place. At the end of the day, I’m the interim. My role is to hold up a clean and clear mirror and guide, nudge, and reflect back the journey forward for you all to own. That means potentially hard and honest conversations – sharing with each other what you share with me about your likes and dislikes and hopes for what can serve the whole.
I’ve written enough – I’m excited for this weekend, and hope you are too. Bring grace and space for this unique interim time and the questions it raises about this church you call home. Change and growth is often hard, but at the end of the day, what it looks like – and why – will belong to you.
Peace to you all in the strong name of Jesus –
P.S. The announcement/invitation is below, but as you feel led, bring in a photo, drawing, memento, etc of a loved one who you’ve lost earthside for our All Saints service. The children and our liturgical consultant will be guiding our way towards remembrance, mourning, and celebration of life.
Read the Thursday E-letter for November 7, 2019 here.