A New Year and a New Day

As we enter this new calendar year I am keenly aware that for many of us a new day is also dawning when it comes to determining how to best configure and re-position our congregational ministries for the future. I applaud the courageous and forward-looking leadership being provided by pastors and lay leaders who are considering establishing new ministry partnerships and mergers across the territory of the Eastern Synod.
   In Kitchener-Waterloo, merger conversations are taking place between St. Philip and St. Luke, and also between Reformation, St. John and St. Mark. In Hamilton, Grace, St. John, Faith and Transfiguration are enthusiastically engaged in shared ministry conversations. Christ in Peterborough has been exploring a new partnership with St. John, St. Barnabas, St. Luke and All Saints Anglican. In South Grey Bruce Counties, St. Matthew, Mildmay, St. Paul and St. Peter, Neustadt, and St. Paul, Normanby Twp. are fully engaged in the work of renewing and reconfiguring their ministries.
   In doing so, they are following the faith-fueled example of those who have recently established new ministry partnerships in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia and effected mergers that created All Saints Lutheran Anglican in Guelph, New Life Lutheran in Sudbury and the newly merged Mt. Calvary and Martin Luther in Ottawa.
   And to that I would add the similarly faith-fueled decisions of congregations like St. John, Riverside Heights, St. James, Cambridge and Maranatha, Kitchener who made the difficult but absolutely right decision to conclude their ministries and thereby liberate their accumulated human and physical assets to serve and support new ministry within the life of our synod.
   Each of these situations was unique and represented the desire of those congregations to adapt and change themselves in response to the ministry needs and requirements of a particular context. But these stories also hold much in common.
1.  Each partner was deeply committed to sustaining and building a vibrant and viable Lutheran ministry in their particular community.
2.  Each partner recognized that this would not happen via a slavish devotion to the status quo.
3.  Each was led and supported by rostered and lay leaders who were able to “park” their particular self-interest for the sake of ministry.
4.  Each was led by leaders who had the emotional maturity needed to manage and regulate the anxieties – and occasional slings and arrow – directed toward them during any such processes.
   You’ve heard me say it before and I’m going to keep saying it. “We are the richest Christians who have ever lived on planet earth.” We have been entrusted with an abundance of financial, real estate and human resources.
   We do, however, have very real challenges when it comes to how we deploy and use those resources effectively, for the sake of God’s mission. Too many of those resources are being squandered or improperly utilized. Sadly, it is sometimes our own apathy or lack of faith that holds us back. But more often than not, simply “not knowing” the available options can prevent us from acting on our deepest faith impulses.
   Our synod’s strategic plan highlights the need to us to “identify and nurture new forms of ministry” and to help “congregations at a crossroads” to act boldly and decisively for the sake of God’s broader mission. Your synod’s leadership team is committed to doing all we can to help this happen in 2018 and beyond. We hope that you are too. It is, indeed, both a new year and a new day. Stay tuned for each!