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January 2023 Pastor's ponderings

Merry Christmas!

As I sit in front of John’s and my Christmas tree to finally take a breath and write a note for this Grapevine, I wonder how your Christmas celebration might have been changed from that which you actually experienced. From Facebook and some direct sharing,

I know a number of us had to “pivot,” while others with irreversibly changed life realities sought to embrace the promises of Christmas more profound than a simple holiday can hold. This past weekend of icy limitations in the PNW sure changed BSLC plans for the weekend! I am grateful for having observed the longest night and how that bookended with Christmas Day worship actually provided rich meaning to my experience of Christmas, in spite of the shifting required in between.

What did you do to mark the day and remember on Christmas Day this year after your plans shifted? This past weekend seemed to me to reflect broader realities of our past several years, as we’ve needed to practice nimble flexibility of mind and spirit in response to a changing landscape of circumstance and understanding. It’s often not a comfortable reality.

We’ve faced more often than we’d have liked, times “when you don’t know what you don’t know” have been forced into our awareness–including that we hadn’t developed a proactive plan for clearing the parking lot when ice coats it (thanks, Christmas elf who snuck in and scraped it away so worship could happen Christmas morning – and Christmas angel who let me know it had been done!) because we’d developed an assumption that Keizer’s parking lot clearing crews, which have informally included ours for years, would continue without question.

Looking forward toward 2023

Counting that things which have long been assumed will come back and continue on is part of what’s forming a roadblock as we have come back together as a congregation, in part because some of the changes we’ve faced, and continue to wrestle with, have to do with changed circumstances, including currently lacking means for a staffed youth leader, and the retirement of Mariellen from her position as BSLC office administrator after 29 years.

Then there is a hesitancy being seen across sectors of society, to “get involved” or return to previous levels of participation. On top of that, people have fallen out of relationship even with those with whom they were once in relationship, let alone with a pastor you never really had the opportunity to build a relationship with “on the ground”, nor develop trust (those coffee and conversation via Zoom didn’t appeal to many, and requests for invitations to meet other ways didn’t feel comfortable for too long). Then there are those who “moved on”, whether in lost connection and commitment, literal moves, or death.

So that’s something about where we are. And as a congregation, we must find our way around or through these and other markers of a reality that doesn’t quite match “what was”, if we are to continue traveling on the faith journey as a congregation. We need to name what is at the essence of who we are, that is to be passed from our earlier generation of being, to those who form us now, and we seek to pass on to future generations. In the last month one of our congregation helped me recognize that when I speak of the need to define what is our essence, to bring focus to our ministry, or define us, it feels to some of you as if I am advocating for constraining limitations (which of course would spark resistance in independent PNWers).

Part of what seems important to work on is coming to greater mutual understanding, and the whys behind our thinking and reactions. As part of that work, the naming of core values shared across the congregation will reprise in January. From mid November to the end of the year it felt “off limits" for continued efforts. It is not too late for those folk to weigh in:. if a group of folks not yet able to contribute wish to go through the broader process, please let me know; alternatively, provide responses to the values included on the lists generated in October. (the lists will be reshared soon).

Whichever way the congregation feels called to move forward on the proposal to sell land for affordable housing, we have work to do in regrounding ourselves so that it again feels safe enough to imagine a future of ministry and mission out into the world. Again: discernment is not about any of us deciding what we want or are comfortable with, but seeking some sense of clarity together regarding next steps God hopes for for us. And after we perhaps falteringly take next steps, discovery of what next lies ahead will be clearer.

That’s where we are – trying to find our way through a fog obscuring a fuller vision of what lies beyond, even as we take tentative steps forward trusting that God is there to lead us if we reach out for direction. Please pray for wisdom and direction. I’ll be sending a requested summary of how the process since the proposal was made has gone and what has been learned before the end of the year. For now, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, all!

I wonder what 2023 will reveal?

Pastor Jean

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