Any Roadmap I had for the First Year in Ministry at KUC Went Out the Window.
The other day a friend congratulated me on being a year in Kamloops. It suddenly dawned on me, yes, I have been here a year….and what a year it has been!
As with the move to any new community, any new job, there are the challenges of settling in to a new home, finding where to shop, dentists, doctors (still on the 811 wait list), making new friends and so on.For ministers there is also the moving into a new congregation and entering into ministry with an entirely different group of people. First, I want to thank everyone at KUC who has been so warm and welcoming to Joe and myself.
And…there was a plan as to how the first year should roll out in a new ministry. I like to take the first months especially listening to the stories of people in the congregation in to get an understanding of the faith tradition of the congregation. In this task, I worked closely with the fabulous KUC pastoral care team. The overall task in the first year of a ministry is to come to comprehend how things work in this community of faith. This is also the time of people in the congregation coming to know their new minister. One treads cautiously in a congregation which has just said farewell to a beloved long-termed minister such as KUC has had. People are so used to the way the former minister has done things that anything the new minister does can seem like major change. So, one proceeds carefully and gently through the first year at times being surprised and at times being excited by what is happening in the new congregation.
Christmas in Kamloops was lovely. I especially appreciated the small amount of snow and cooler, crisp days and nights. When we think of Christmas, we all think of the traditions we have with our families and as Christians, how we celebrate the birth of Jesus in our faith community. Being new, it was delightful to see how those traditions played out at KUC. Using accumulated leave, I was grateful to take the month of January off to relax and renew after an extremely busy few months.
Coming back to Kamloops in February we began to realize the impact that the pandemic of COVID-19 could have upon churches and we held our last in-person worship service on March 19. It was at this point that any plans, any road map I had for the first year in ministry went out the window.
Within a week we moved to streaming worship and over the following days began to stream meetings,bible and faith studies and coffee hours. I began to work from home as we all hunkered down, not knowing what the coming weeks would bring and anxiously watching Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix every afternoon at 3 pm seeking some sign of where we would go next.Through conversations and support groups with other ministers, one of the greatest challenges is to overcome the sense of “this is not what we were called to do.” Yes, we were called to minister and COVID19 has presented many opportunities for ministry, but most ministers are used to working in person and ministry through the computer screen is quite a bit different that face to face. Most of us had little or no experience in things like Zooming and livestreaming and YouTube.
One of the first things which became evident was how do we keep the feeling of being a community of God’s people while not being together in person? I hoped that the daily meditations would somewhatsupport the work of the people who took to phoning members of KUC. In someway or another, each of our congregation could have a daily contact with their church and I am thankful for the support and encouragement of many emails and phone calls which I received from people at KUC. So far, 115 YouTube meditations and services have been posted to the Kamloops United Church website. We made the decision to pre-record July and August worship services to provide a sense of continuity for the congregation throughout the summer months. We were also aware that while KUC has many very gifted lay leaders who could have led these services, it was unfair to drop them into a new landscape with many technical requirements and very little support while I was on vacation.
Here are some statistics from ministry over the past few months:
Average people watching YouTube
Sunday Services in April: 375
Good Friday: 379
Sunday Services in July: 166
In April approximately 250 people a day watched the meditations
.In June approximately 125 people a day watched the mediations.
Since returning from vacation, I am pleased to report that we have the membership/ pastoral care tracking program up and running which is a great aid to me being new to the congregation in keeping track of many people who are on the periphery of the congregation.
One of the important things at a church is the building of the staff team. It has been wonderful to work with Florence Ballard and I greatly appreciate the many gifts and talents which she brings to her role in the church. Our team is also in a state of change. Joanna Brown is a great addition to our team, holding down the front office and I look forward to Tomas Bijok starting as our music director and to the new Spiritual Coordinator who will be starting in September. Rick Windjack throughout these past few months has done a fantastic job at keeping PIT Stop running and where would we be without our wonderful custodial staff of Bill, Jim, Dawn, Ignacio and Brad who had completed many projects around the church while we are closed.
If there is one word to sum up the past year for me, it would be “change.” Almost every article on ministry that I have read recently has said that today the quality of ministry is dependent on how we respond to these changing times. Change is always challenging, but I believe that at KUC, as we are led by God’s Spirit, we have the gifts, talents and resources to respond to these days.
Throughout the past few months, I have been reminded of the words that Esther’s uncle Mordechai said to her when, as the Babylonian queen, knew she had to speak to the king about the persecution of the Jews. Mordechai’s words of encouragement were: “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for a time such as this?” I think there is comfort in Mordechai’s words for all of us in this time of COVID19. We are here and we are called upon to live out our faith and spirituality in new and creative ways to meet the needs of our times.
Blessing and peace,
Congratulations on your one year Anniversary, Michael!