On February 15, 2009, I preached my first sermon as the Lead Pastor of St. James Lutheran in Burnsville, MN. It was a whirlwind of a week for my family and me as we moved from New Jersey. We left our house in New Jersey on a Tuesday and moved into our new home in Savage on a Thursday. Looking back, we should have given ourselves more time for the transition, but it was an exciting time and we were eager to begin a new chapter of life and ministry.
When I look back on the years since that time, they have been a time of transition and transformation. Little could I have anticipated at the start that St. James would have resized its ministry moving from a programmatic congregation to a relationship-based community. We have changed from being a kingdom of kingdoms – each with its direction, passion, and resources- into a focused community with a vision to build and deepen loving relationships with God, each other, and our neighbor. Our altar table and communion practices have opened to include on a weekly basis not only children but all who seek the presence of God. Children bring vitality to each worship as they march around, collect a noisy offering, and shout out the dismissal. We are smaller, to be sure, but are more engaged in the giving of our time, talents, and treasure. Innovation has been a constant companion as we have adjusted the way we do ministry to meet the resources and the opportunities/challenges available. Together we reduced the size of St. James’ congregational debt from $1.3 million in 2009 to currently under $350,000 with a plan to be debt-free in just over three years. There is much to celebrate!
I am grateful for the many folks who I’ve been privileged to be in ministry with at St. James. Councils, Executive Mission Teams, staff, pastors, students, interns, Ministry Hosts, Mission Teams, and weekly worshipers – each of you brought your efforts, dreams, skills, and gifts. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to learn and grow with you all. It wasn’t always easy, and at times we were faced with making difficult decisions. Both faith and struggle fill ministry as it does life itself. That said, as a community of faith and struggle, we sought God’s guidance and direction. We came together and trusted in the Spirit to lead us onward.
How do you measure time? Most folks measure it as years completed. I like to think of time as what lies ahead. So instead of finishing nine years at St. James, I am celebrating the beginning of a tenth year. What will this year ahead bring?
Lord knows, and that is good enough for me. Trusting in God’s care, love, and guidance we venture forth as a community of faith and struggle. Let us seek together where the Spirit is moving, inviting, prodding, and encouraging.
Thankful for you, I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.