Yesterday was a Wonderful Day! The Rev. Jessica Petersen was elected, with more than 98 percent of the votes, to become our next Senior Minister. She is entitled to some deserved time away from pastoral ministry before assuming her responsibilities here on November 2.
Jessica certainly brings a fresh perspective to ministry, does she not? The worship service was alive with depth and innovation and substance. She is a deeply committed Christian, gifted with enthusiasm, theological sophistication, and intense social justice passion. As it says in the Hebrew scriptures, “gird your loins.” The days ahead will be filled with new opportunities to address the pressing issues before us.
When I graduated from seminary in 1963, I had no idea that my devoted seminary faculty had tried to prepare me to serve the Church in a society that was changing in unimaginable ways. The heady days of church growth had already peaked. Numerically, the Main Line Protestant churches have declined in church membership and participation ever since. Many congregations had chosen to build new educational units to accommodate the influx of young families and their children, those cornerstones bearing the date of around 1958. Within 10 to 15 years, those spaces were no longer needed. The “habit” of attending Sunday morning worship services gave way to many alternatives. Sunday was not so much the first day of the week as the last day of the weekend, devoted to preparing for the Monday work week. The society around us moved into what had been “our special Sunday space,” scheduling sporting events, opening stores, and offering other entertainments.
We often did not respond well to these challenges. It was easy to blame our pastoral and/or lay leadership. We accused families of not living up to our expectations. We argued over tight church budgets. We continued to try the old ways that had worked before, but we were confronting a new set of challenges. We struggled to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel. If God was doing a New Thing, God had not given us clear directions about what to do.
Did you sense, yesterday, that we may have caught a glimpse of God’s New Thing? I am NOT suggesting that Jessica, by herself, will suddenly usher in this new way of being the Church of Jesus Christ. That would be grossly unfair to her, but I do sense she can be an important presence with us. She is curious about this congregation and its giftedness. She sees in us a reservoir of willing and able Christians wanting to become better Christians. She brings new perspectives and insights, new experiences and resources. Allow her the time to get her feet on the ground. Then “gird your loins” for where the Spirit will lead.
Peace, John Krueger