High Hopes

Pastor's monthly newsletter article for September, 2011

As you read this newsletter article, I will be completing the final preparations for my fall sabbatical leave. It will be a time for me to step away from the daily responsibilities of parish life. It will also be a time of study, reflection, exercise, and relaxation. I have high hopes for this opportunity to be renewed and refreshed – and expect to return in December with an even greater excitement about and dedication to our ministries at Saint Peter.

I also have high hopes for what will take place here at Saint Peter in my absence. Pastor Dan Hays will be filling in for me part-time, and I know you will come to enjoy his friendship, leadership and care. We have a strong group of volunteer leaders at Saint Peter, who are committed to keeping ministry strong through the Fall months. Our staff is working well together, and ready to offer their encouragement and leadership to the congregation during this time. Ministry teams are growing, and I anticipate that will continue to happen. Members and supporters of Saint Peter have been especially generous this year with their financial support, and I am confident that we will finish up the Fall in the same strong financial position that we find ourselves in right now.

I have other high hopes, that some of you may not (yet!) embrace. I hope that everything won’t go perfectly when I am gone. I don’t hold those hopes because I need to think things can only go well when I’m on duty. I hold those hopes because of a core conviction I have about congregational ministry: I believe that the pastor’s primary role is to equip congregants to do ministry. The problem is, we pastors (read: “experts”) often get in the way of people doing the ministry God has gifted them to do. There are many leaders in the church: called leaders, elected leaders and informal leaders. Too often, when a situation arises or a crisis hits, the elected and informal leaders will take a step or two back and see how the called leaders respond, before becoming involved themselves.

I fully expect that there will be a few bumps along the way while I am gone. And I have high hopes that when this happens, leaders will step up, who might not have automatically stepped up if I had been there to coordinate the response. When that happens, I know that these leaders will grow in confidence, in commitment and in joy – as they observe God using their gifts and abilities to strengthen this congregation.

In this way, a pastor’s sabbatical leave becomes not just a gift to the pastor, but to the entire congregation. The end result is a pastor who is rested and renewed and re-invigorated for ministry, and congregational leaders who are better prepared to guide the congregation into its strongest possible future.

God’s peace to you. Support and encourage one another when a bump or two comes your way. And I look forward to seeing you all in December!

David J. Risendal, Pastor