State of the Church -- Presented at Girdwood Chapel Charge Conference

State of the Church
Presented to the Girdwood Chapel Charge Conference
21 December 2011
by Pastor Jim Doepken

You already know this, I hope.  But we have some wonderful, holy, good things going on right now: 

·      We have a Food Pantry that is meeting more need than we knew existed and we’re trying to be part of the solution to the underlying problems of economic need in the community. 
·      We have a discipleship group that has been a wonderful exercise in following Jesus with the hope of expanding it to more groups in the coming year. 
·      We have bunches of youth coming to the Friday Night Live events and also to the Tween Group which meets before it.
·      We have the stirrings of a men’s group…a long way from our Women’s Bible Study…but we can dream.
·      We’re in our new space and have seen it used for outreach to Alcoholics Anonymous, Cub Scouts, an art program, and one wedding.
·      We have a real good spirit to this place, a Holy spirit of care, acceptance, love, and grace even though we are a pretty diverse lot.

With all of this going on, it’s a shame that our economic realities often take center stage and color how we view the many wonderful things we have happening.  But, alas, it’s true.  We are struggling, financially.  We have commitments to the United Methodist Development Fund and to individuals.  Moreover, we have a building that still needs work to be truly finished.  We’re doing a lot of ministry.  But we’ve taken on a lot of responsibility to get here.

It’s this present reality that has shaped much of our discussion over the last four months as we’ve explored the possibility of moving to a ¾ time pastoral position.  It has weighed heavily on the leadership of the congregation and also upon the pastoral family.   But, throughout the discussions, we’ve been clear that all of us in the conversation love the church, love each other, and hope for a better future together where the celebrations of our ministries aren’t followed by a caveat concerning financial problems.  We pray this is the case and we’ll work for this future in the grace of God and the love of Christ.

We have our work cut out for us.  “I” don’t have my work cut out for me.  “Our leadership” doesn’t.  It’s all of us.  It’s the whole body which is the church in this particular place that has our work cut out for “us”…the whole body, with kids screaming, parents overburdened, faces smiling, hands serving, “Eagle’s Wings” singing, and hearts open to the will of God. 

I pray that we’ll be able to creatively work on this together.

While the Discipleship Group has been my primary means of working on the discipleship of the members of the church over the last several months, it has also been my primary means of spiritual growth and I thank those who have journeyed with me.  I hope others will join as we move forward.  It’s a good thing to follow Jesus more closely in one’s life.

As for continuing education, I received training from the Jurisdictional Leadership Team in January and, for the first half of the year, I met with a ministry coach via phone.  The Discipleship Group, the Tween Group, our Lenten Small Groups, and our Stewardship Drive all have their roots in discussion with my mentor.  In the coming year, I’ll be heading to General Conference in Tampa to meet with United Methodists from around the globe.   This will be my education for 2012.

I think it’s important for me to say that I truly thank God for Girdwood Chapel.  I thank God for my experiences.  I thank God for the people. I thank God that I’ve grown as a pastor here while always believing that it’s a “good fit.”  I thought that 11 and half years ago and I think that today.

We will share many more memories and celebrations over the coming months and, potentially, years.  Let us band together and meet our financial difficulties head on so that our collective ministry can take center stage.  For that is where we really shine as a light to the community.