What I’ve been learning in my new call
Posted On July 3, 2023
I’m officially one week into my new call as the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church on Allison Hill in Harrisburg, PA as well as the executive director of the Health Ministries at the church. And there is a lot that I’ve been learning. Here’s some initial things that I’m learning:
- That’s a long title. It’s a mouthful. It probably doesn’t fit nicely on a business card (I haven’t gotten around to those yet). Based on what I’m learning, those titles are really just the summation of all the other things I am called to be here as well that I will learn as time goes on.
- I’m grateful. Grateful for a whole bunch of things. I’m grateful for this call that gives me the opportunity to see more the image of God in so many ways in the congregation and community. I’m grateful that this call is so very unique. I’m grateful for having colleagues that are both clergy and medical. I’m grateful for time to absorb in so much of what I’m learning. I’m grateful for the transition time that I was able to have to my predecessor and for a smooth transition that has been a real blessing for both of us. I’m grateful for so many other things.
- Humility is important. Actually it is vital. I have a lot to learn in this call because of the unique nature of this calling being a congregation and health clinics. This means I ask a lot of questions. I listen. I contemplate. I’ve been asked what I plan on changing. “I don’t know, I need to spend time learning before I can answer that question.” That’s what I’ve been saying because it’s true. And it also quite weird, but feels perfect. I’ve been on the front lines of the need for change in the church (the larger church) for some time. And here I am pausing on that so that I can learn how things are done. I don’t want to screw up what is working. I’m not for change just for the sake of change. What I’m learning about myself is that I really only change things that aren’t working. When I look at the larger church, there is a lot not working. But here, it’s different. And different in a different way too. I don’t know if I can actually explain it. This probably has to do with the setting and the ministry that happens here. I’ll keep learning and listening.
- Healing. Everyone who comes to this place is in need of healing, whether they know it or not. This is apparent already. And it includes me – which I’m grateful for. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the health ministries and what they provide or the congregation. My predecessor called Christ Lutheran a special place of healing. And I can see how that is the case. Healing happens in a variety of ways – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, communal, etc. Too often in our society we focus just on physical healing. But that’s only one part of healing. I’m reminded of the the story about the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years that is told in the Synoptic Gospels. Matthew’s version goes like this: Matthew 9:20-22 – (Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.). This is certainly a story of physical healing, but it is far more. This woman had been bleeding for 12 years. According to the religious law, she was considered ritually unclean – unclean for a continuous 12 years without ceasing. Unclean people were not supposed to be touched. In other words, it is likely that this woman had not been touched by another human being for 12 years. Can you imagine that? No physical touch. She was probably cut off from relationships as well. She was cut off from the community, her family, and more. This wasn’t just a personal physical healing. This was far more. And this is what happens at Christ Lutheran – healing in a variety of ways.
- Vision. I’m a vision person. And I see the vision of what can be, while I also am learning and listening to what is. Vision takes time to shape, to form, to communicate. It takes time to know who needs to be a part of it. It takes time to plan, to get needed resources. And mostly, it takes God’s kairos time to all come together – which means patience and waiting for God’s time. That’s actually a relief.
- I have lots of stuff. This is more humorous than anything else. I’m bringing one box in at a time. mostly because the thought of carrying more than one box up to the second floor of the church at a time has very little appeal to me. And so, this is a slow process of bringing boxes of books (I have a lot of these), office related boxes, pictures and other things like that, and boxes I only labeled as “misc” – surprise boxes. For now, I’ve started lining boxes over against the wall, not touching them yet, or emptying them, or even really looking inside to see what is in them. I’ll get there.