Posts Tagged With: interim pastor

A Carolina Baptist in Two Yankee Winters

For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, I’ve confused my seasons and moved North in the dead of winter. Minus seventeen degrees was the lowest temperature—on a Sunday morning! Church was not cancelled. Here are a few observations:

Calling/Vocation—I didn’t initiate either of these experiences. I’m a retired pastor/preacher/church consultant who lives in South Carolina with my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. During the last fifteen years, I’ve worked with churches in crisis or transition. My skill set is to serve as a “bridge” from their past to their future. Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut, needed help. They called. I responded. It’s a good thing to feel useful. It’s even better to be useful. I’m grateful for all my friends who encouraged and/or prayed for me. Trinity called a fine young pastor and Wilton, I believe, is close to calling someone as their pastor. I’ll keep you posted.

Family—Anyone who knows me understands that family is important. Sally and I have been married 44 years. Our daughter Jenna, son-in-law Thorne, and Grandson Lake live three blocks from Sally and me. They eat supper with us every Sunday night. On the other hand, our daughter Julie and her husband Tom live outside Boston, a long way from South Carolina. I don’t like that distance at all. By being in New England for good chunks of 2016 and 2017, Julie, Tom and I could get together about once every three weeks. I loved, loved, loved those times. Francis Bacon said something like this: “If the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed can go to the mountain.” So, off to New England, I traveled.

Adventure—What’s not to like about a Currier & Ives Winter Wonderland? For someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, New England is an attractive option. Ivy League schools, hockey games, moose, frozen ponds and rivers, all sounded intriguing. Merely sightseeing (no offense to my touristy friends) is not an adventure. Getting out of my comfort zone is. I dreaded the idea of shoveling snow, but that worked out just fine. Also, I was aware of the proximity of New Hampshire to Canada and Connecticut to New York City, so I took advantage of both. I spent a few days in Montreal and several days in Manhattan. I saw four Broadway plays. I toured West Point. I loved the picturesque town squares and greens, as well as the streams, waterfalls, hills and wildlife, the covered bridges, mansions, churches, shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments I discovered all over New England, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Walpole, New Hampshire, to Quechee, Vermont, to New Haven, Connecticut, to Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Lots of beauty, lots of history, and lots of fine food!

(Bonus points for Adventure: Dartmouth College was an intriguing part of my 2016 experience. As the Baptist Student Minister for the campus, I had access to libraries, lectures, and other aspects of campus life. I took continuing education courses.

Serendipity—Food! I’ve never taken a road trip for the sake of a culinary experience, but neither have I shied away from dietary excellence. King Arthur Flour was a highlight of my first winter away—pastries, breads, desserts. Incomparable. The farms of Vermont and New Hampshire produce some of the best cheeses you will ever taste. This year, I discovered the restaurants in the corner of Connecticut where I lived were exceptional, with a commitment to locally grown meat and vegetables. On my last trip into New York City (the train ride costs only $8.50), I determined to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I couldn’t afford most of them—over $300 for a fixed price meal. I discovered NoMad was within my price range, made a reservation, and had one of the great dinners of my life.

Being alone—Traveling by myself has, of course, pluses and minuses. I’ve blogged about that before. I’m comfortable with Quiet Time. I read a lot. I write. I walk. I think. I eat. I read. I eat. I walk. I read. I eat. I’m perfectly content to go to a baseball game, a high school musical, or a museum tour by myself. I prefer to be with someone, but that’s not always possible.

In case I sound a bit too blasé or pious about all this time unaccompanied, let me be clear: both years, I got very lonely. The adventure wore off. I’m sure I don’t want to spend a full winter in New England or apart from Sally again. Sally and I really missed each other. She came up once during each of these sojourns for about a week. Thank God for those occasions when friends or family called or visited or wrote. Sometimes, member of the Trinity and Wilton congregations reached out to me, and sometimes I reached out to them, so I also enjoyed local fellowship.

I’ve reflected about people who have no choice about living alone: widows and widowers. I’m sensitive to the fact that being by yourself is not always a choice. It can be painful. I’m fortunate. I came home to a wife who loves me.

Until the wanderlust strikes again, or, until I get a phone call, whichever comes first, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

In Over My Head

Disoriented is the word that best describes my first few days in Connecticut as the Interim Pastor of Wilton Baptist Church. I feel strangely clueless. It’s been a weird few days. It’s already snowed. I purchased an electric blanket. My printer’s not working. I’ve already been to an Urgent Care “Doc in a Box” to follow up a complication from hand surgery. They’re painting the inside of the house where I’m living. The shower downstairs doesn’t produce hot water but the shower upstairs does. I live downstairs.

Welcome to Life! I love it.

Two days ago, on the second Sunday of Advent, the church gathered for worship and I preached my first sermon here. Oddly enough, the sermon was about Peace, but I wasn’t feeling very tranquil. Pastor friends and I have joked about praying that something should happen in a worship service that isn’t in the bulletin. But it’s not a joke. God’s Spirit is not, after all, predictable. We can organize the deck chairs on the Titanic, but it’s better if someone (or Someone) comes up with a strategy to keep the ship from sinking.

Wilton Baptist was to celebrate Communion, but the Lord’s Supper wasn’t mentioned in the bulletin. We had Communion anyway. Throughout the service, I think I was standing when I should have been sitting, and vice versa. I forgot to turn the microphone on; then, I forgot to turn it off. During the Lord’s Prayer, the congregation asked God to forgive us our trespasses and my prayer asked God to forgive us our debts. Oops.

It was that kind of Sunday.

As a pastor, I’ve discovered I’m only a small part of the process. I enjoy the shade of trees I didn’t plant. I put one foot in front of the other in the ordinary way, but, amazingly, extraordinary things happen. I like that. It takes some of the pressure off a single individual. None of us are doing anything, as our preschool children say, “All by myself.”

I’ll prepare sermons. I’ll meet with the Pastor Search Committee. Still, I’m absolutely certain that I’m part of Some Thing Bigger than I am. That’s good to remember.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Christmas in New England

A few months ago, the Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut asked me to serve as their Interim Pastor beginning the Second Sunday of Advent. I accepted and I leave to drive there next Thursday, December 1.

Another year, another adventure.

Yes, I have the seasons mixed up. I should be in the South during cold weather and go North in summer, but that’s not the way 2016-2017 worked out. Here’s the Quote for the Day on one of the websites (Daily Dharma) I read:

“When we reach out to what is unknown to us, we let go of the notion that we can control what we experience.” Ken McLeod, Where the Thinking Stops

Wilton Baptist, averaging 35-40 people in attendance every Sunday, is practically a megachurch compared with Trinity Baptist of Hanover, where I served last winter. Wilton Baptist has an active congregation, Sunday school and music program, and outreach ministry. They’ve had fine pastoral leadership over the years. My task is to help them transition to whatever and whoever is next for them.

They own a manse, so that’s where I’ll stay. I’m told New York City is just a short commuter train ride away, so I expect I’ll go into NYC occasionally.

Sally will fly up to see me over the Christmas holidays. I loved having guests in New Hampshire, so come visit if you can. There’s a spare bedroom. I’m taking enough grits so I can have company stay over.

My address and contact info will be

Marion D. Aldridge

222 Mountain Road

Wilton, CT 06897

(803) 413-2734

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

God Talk in New Hampshire

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!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Comfort Zone

A little more than halfway through my New Hampshire adventure, and during a two-week visit home, now seems like a good time to reflect on what I’ve been doing for the past three and a half months.

Thanks to all who have been following and encouraging me in this venture, an undertaking unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Your comments on my blog and Facebook page have been a hoot. My life has not been in danger in the great frozen Northland. Some people actually live in New England and survive. However, Monday, April 25, when I flew home for two weddings and a two-week break was a study in contrasts. It was 27 degrees and snowing in Hanover, New Hampshire. It was a beautiful 63 degrees in Columbia, South Carolina. Color has not yet arrived in New Hampshire, but our South Carolina garden was an explosion of flamboyant fertility—greens, reds, yellows and purples. On the front porch was a Clemson flag which rounded out the color spectrum with a bright orange. I haven’t seen that in New Hampshire.

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover called me to serve as an Interim Pastor and Baptist Campus Minister to Dartmouth after the retirement of Ken (Pastor) and Sandy (Campus Minister) Hale. Our goal is to have a new Pastor/Campus Minister in place when I leave in late June, after six months. We have made strides, receiving excellent resumes, and having a few fine interviews, in spite of being able to offer only a part-time salary of $25,000 per year.

The furnace at the church is on its last leg, and I’m trying to raise $18,000 to replace an over thirty-year old antique before I leave. Otherwise, the church facility is in good shape. If you want to participate in this fund-raising effort, send your check to

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover

Box 5079

Hanover, New Hampshire 03755

 

Any help will be appreciated. And tax-deductible.

The church, being small (an average of ten people in worship every Sunday), has not required my full-time attention. As those who’ve read my Facebook and blog posts know, I’ve had fun.

  • I’ve been able to see my Boston-based daughter Julie and her husband Tom about ever other week. That has been a great gift for me.
  • I’ve taken two writing classes Dartmouth provides for senior adults in the area. As surprising as it may be, I qualify as old enough.
  • I’ve taken walks throughout Vermont and New Hampshire in some beautiful villages. My favorites are Walpole and Orford, NH, and Woodstock and Norwich, VT.
  • I drove up to Montreal, Canada, for two days and two nights, a lot of walking (ten miles each day) and some world-class meals. I might as well admit that I’ve eaten a lot of amazing food on this adventure (including local cheeses) and gained some weight.
  • My cousin Yvonne, who lives in Vermont, along with her husband Hal and daughter Stormie, picked me up and drove us to Portland, Maine, for a two-day and two-night mini-vacation there. I ate lobster.
  • Gerald and Kari Aldridge and Frank and Susan Broome came to visit on occasions when it was important to see familiar faces. Speaking of friends and family, I am grateful for the phone calls of folks who checked up on me. Sally and I talked almost every day.
  • I haven’t watched much TV, but I’ve read a lot. I’ve written less than I’ve read.
  • I’m enjoying preaching every Sunday and doing the tasks necessary to help this congregation move to its next chapter. That is why I went to New England. It has been fulfilling to watch the church transition after the Hale’s leadership there for 32 years.

After two weeks in my South Carolina comfort zone, which I’m loving (though it is also filled with doctor, dentist, and other appointments), I’ll head back to Trinity and New Hampshire for my final two months there.

In June, Sally will fly up to visit Julie and Tom in Boston, then come over and see where I’ve been living, preaching, walking, and eating. She will meet the good folks at Trinity. Then, we’ll drive back to South Carolina.

That’s the plan. Keep the church and me in your prayers. Thanks again for your interest. If you’ve read this through to this last paragraph, you are a friend indeed.

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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