Throughout my life, religious people who have over-worded the world with pious and pompous phrases have surrounded me:
- Praise the Lord.
- Are you saved?
- The Lord told me…
- I’ll pray for you.
- The Bible says…
Generally, I attempt to avoid the glib way many Christians bless each other’s hearts. I am a person of faith, but I’ve heard too many clichés for too many years to believe half of them. Make that a tenth of them. Even an alcoholic in the middle of a full-blown drunk can recite devout refrains. Meaningless, empty words.
So, I try to be careful when it comes to God-talk.
But it’s impossible for me to speak of my six months as an Interim Pastor in New Hampshire without resorting to spiritual language.
Of course, we could credit some of what transpired simply to good people doing good work:
- A successful SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
- Discovering our niche: Trinity is a small, diverse, progressive church, in the Baptist tradition, where Black Lives Matter, where Women Matter, where all are welcome and can serve in any leadership capacity. As historic Baptists who are both evangelical and ecumenical, we believe in the individual’s freedom and the church’s freedom to explore and interpret scripture independent of any outside authority.
- Effective networking set in motion by my predecessors, Ken and Sandy Hale
- Selecting a pastor search committee, preparing a job description for a new pastor, and establishing a budget
- Interviewing prospective pastors by Skype
- Surviving a Minus Seventeen Degree (-17 F) Sunday morning
- Surviving several setbacks in the course of six months. I don’t want anyone reading this blog to believe we experienced only successes during my tenure in New Hampshire. There were also failures. A quotation from my journal for Monday, April 10: “By human standards, the worst day in church since I’ve been here. No heat again. The kitchen and boiler room were flooded from a leak in the pipes (not the boiler). Three people in church.”
- Discovering that a Korean Presbyterian Church needed a place to worship and Trinity needed a tenant to help us with our basic building upkeep expenses
Yet, stuff happened for which a spiritual explanation makes sense, at least to me—pure grace, nothing we deserved because of hard work or shrewd insights.
My last Sunday, June 19, is an example. A family of four strangers entered our small congregation, putting a dozen people in the pews. The young couple was looking for a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Church. The husband is beginning a Pediatric residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (meaning, they will be in Hanover for three years) and the wife attended McAfee Seminary, a CBF-affiliated school (meaning, she knows what she was looking for in a church).
Thank you, Jesus.
Another example: We raised $15,000 for a new furnace (Thanks to many of you reading this!) The God-part of that equation, and I’ve seen this happen dozens of times in my career, is how close that number is to our actual need. The new furnace costs $18,000. We might have raised $1000 or $5000, but people gave 83% of what we needed. As a Christian, I love those kinds of coincidences. You can call it Karma, or Dumb Luck, and that won’t bother me a bit. But, I hope you’ve forgive me if I say,
Thank you, Jesus!
Final example: Within six months of the Hale’s retirement, we called Andy Sutton to be our next pastor.
Praise the Lord!