News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
As I write this, we are almost halfway through the season of Easter. The Day of Pentecost is on the horizon, Sunday, June 5. Likely, most congregations are well along in planning for the celebration of the birthday of the New Testament church.
Here is a small hint for that celebration: It is permissible to tell your liturgist that, when reading Acts 2:9-11, to substitute “a bunch of people from a lot of different places” for the list of countries. That way, the liturgist doesn’t stumble over a location like Cappadocia. Many listeners may mistake this place for a coffee order!
In all seriousness, Pentecost is a special day, but it often gets a bit lost in the liturgical calendar. It closes out our journey through the Lent and Easter seasons at a time when schools are wrapping up another year, graduations are occurring, and some people are getting a start on a summer vacation, or are reverse snow birds.
Years ago, congregations were encouraged to make Pentecost even more special through a program that I think was called the Party. The congregation I was serving used this a couple of years, with bright red balloons, streamers, and other decorations, special music, and a post-worship fellowship with cake. Not that we needed an extra excuse to have a post-worship fellowship with food! It was an attempt to liven things up for Presbyterians that unfortunately sometimes earn the label “many are cold, and a few are frozen.”
I have written in recent months about the challenges that all churches are facing as we continue to come out of the COVID pandemic, with outbreaks of the “stealth omicron” subvariant and concerns that another variant may be just over the horizon. I have identified three issues that all sessions and congregations are grappling with – how many active members the congregation actually has, what the financial implications of the pandemic will work out to be (an additional concern with inflation at a 40-year high and insurance costs, especially wind coverage, increasing dramatically or being cancelled), and the health and size of the congregation’s leadership pool.
Pentecost gives us a great opportunity to address the first, and likely, biggest concern, how many active members do we really have these days? Some members do not have access to the live streams and other internet-based conveyances of worship services and fellowship opportunities that we have used over the past two years. We send out printed sermons and try to keep in regular contact, but some people may have slipped through some unintended cracks.
Pentecost is a great time to reach out to these people, and welcome them back to the church. Email blasts are fine, but what might happen if we recruited a team of members to make short phone calls to these members who have found themselves on the fringe of the congregation. Let them know they have been missed, and invite them to a special Pentecost worship service. (And, make it special!)
Pentecost is an opportunity like no previous year for us to hit the reset button, and reach out to our people with the excitement of gathering in the power of the Holy Spirit to be energized to go forth once again into the world that Christ has called us to serve. It sets the table for the focus on the growth of the church, as a body and as individuals, that we often do on post-Pentecost summer Sundays.
Can we be amazed and astonished once more -- Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs— and Floridians, as we hear about God's deeds of power. (Acts 2:9-11, based on the NRSV)
Executive Presbyter / Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams