Faith

New pastor

West Park Christian Church

Our church’s longtime pastor retired, and we found a new pastor. The ease with which we found this fellow was not a given. We were quite worried that it would take months or years. In our fellowship of churches, the independent Christian Churches, there is no central governing body that issues new pastors, as the Methodists do. When a Christian Church wants a new pastor, they have to advertise the job just like a company does. Frankly, there isn’t much interest in little urban churches like this one. You’re not going to build a big career here. You have to want to do this difficult service.

But we all know that this neighborhood needs this measly one-horse church if only to have someplace where people can come without crawling to the many vices easily found here.

While our new pastor didn’t have a heart for the urban mission when he first visited us, that flame lit while he got to know us. Bit by bit he’s bringing a more modern church experience to us. Frankly, it doesn’t work for me. But I’m not who we’re trying to attract. Millennials and Gen Zers make up more than half of our neighborhood and they aren’t coming to church. Our old-fashioned ways repelled them when they did visit.

What isn’t changing is how accepting we are. People come to West Park from any number of backgrounds and challenging life situations. We seldom know what to do that will materially help them. We’ve learned to just love them and let God sort their lives out later. Sometimes our acceptance and how we interpret Scripture create a bit of a tangle for us, but we’ve chosen to bias toward acceptance. It creates a space where people feel safe, and where they feel they can let their guard down and be who they are. That’s when the Holy Spirit can get in.

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16 thoughts on “New pastor

  1. Michael says:

    I find it interesting that your church has struggled with acceptance though I know there are many that do sadly. It seems pretty clear that we are to love our neighbor (and even our enemies). As you state, the Spirit will convict them as needed when they truly accept Jesus.

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    • jon campo says:

      Congratulations on the new Pastor. We had a wonderful Pastor here when I was a child and my Mother was experimenting with the Protestant Church. He brought a lot of new people to the congregation but after his death things went downhill. I don’t think that church is active any more. When I lived in Boston for many years I had a wonderful church with very friendly people and that was a joy. It was the quintessential urban church. When I moved to a big town in Vermont the church was a big letdown. The Priest was a big crab who would berate the congregation like an abusive Father. In five years no one ever greeted me or spoke. I was happy to leave there. I attended the Church here for a time but it was similarly unwelcoming and an unpleasant interaction with one of the Priests sent me packing for good. Now I read the Bible at home on Sunday mornings.

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    • I think you misunderstand. We have no trouble with acceptance. What we sometimes get stuck on, is where acceptance becomes enabling sin. Our faith tradition has always interpreted the word conservatively, so this happens a fair amount.

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  2. Having lived my life as a Lutheran-turned-Catholic, the kind of church you describe is quite foreign to me. From what I have understood your experience is a common one, where a new pastor almost always marks big changes.

    “Catching Millennials” is the thing today, something that cuts across all faiths. A small Methodist congregation in my neighborhood closed recently, undoubtedly due to demographics. This place was brand new in the 60s with plenty of land in a prosperous neighborhood. Who would have believed then that your little inner-city church would outlast it? You are surely doing something right.

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    • Our chief trait is stubbornness. We used to be a Disciples of Christ church rather than an independent Christian church. (Both are Restoration Movement churches though.) Before our previous pastor came the Disciples ordered us to close our doors and sell the building. We told them where they could put it, and promptly withdrew from the Disciples.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. DougD says:

    Excellent, very nice to have a pastor with a heart for the mission. Inner cities and millennials are both toughies. We have a good supply of young persons because we’re walking distance from a Christian College, but most don’t stick around after graduation.

    We have a local church that meets in movie theaters (look up The Meeting House) their tagline is “The Church for People who aren’t into Church”. It’s not for me, since I am into church although it’s interesting to go occasionally. They do attract lots of millennials, but struggle to get them to contribute once they’re there.

    But we are compelled to keep trying.

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    • Churches everywhere are struggling with newcomers contributing. I wonder whether some of that is because so many churches today put on a big Worship Product on Sunday mornings for congregants to consume, rather than building a community of Christians.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael says:

        Churches think a program (or worship product) will bring people in when they only need the power of God. Sadly, it’s pretty infrequent that you see that on display in the US.

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  4. Nice story Jim. Acceptance in a church is really the primary thing, in my opinion. I’m raised catholic, but don’t really participate any longer, after all the revelations of sex abuse. My wife and I grew up in a relatively small diocese in upstate NY, and between the two of us had come in contact with several of the accused priests during our career in catholic schools. Nevertheless, the power of acceptance is what will hopefully let the church rebound. I haven’t been able to join a new church, and expect I’ll eventually return to catholicism. Your story is inspiring, and is a good example of what organized religion should be.
    As an “it’s a Wonderful Life” fan, the reference to “this measly one-horse town” was caught and appreciated !

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    • I’m so happy you got my It’s a Wonderful Life reference!

      I hope that you find the loving, accepting parish that … well, frankly, everyone deserves.

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  5. analogphotobug says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful discussion of our Spiritual needs and growth. Unfortunately when I move to Colorado I met with a lot of rejection from the Episcopal Church. My Experience was much like Jon described. So me, the cradle Episcopalian became a Methodist. Their Pastoral Care helped me through two major illnesses. But Their LGBTQ positions were horrible. I attended a reconciling Church and Our Big Sky Conference (Rocky Mountain States) elected a Lesbian Bishop. A group from Texas wanted her out. To make a long story short, Now the Methodist Church will have a schism. It’s somehow exciting to be a part of starting a NEW CHURCH. I’m still thinking about returning to the Episcopal Church, but I’m going to stick around and help my Methodist Friends make the transition. And then, maybe I’ll stay…..

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    • Fascinating article, thanks for sending. He’s not the first person I’ve read lately who claims that loneliness should be a big focus of the church. I think there’s something to it.

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