Playing Catch-up

Hello, friends. Sorry it has taken so long for me to jump back on here. My plan is still to talk about the Wisdom stuff I’m learning, but I’ve found myself in a place where all of that is being tested here lately. First, our congregation lost a dear saint, Miss June, who “adopted” me as her “birthday present” from the moment I came to interview at this congregation. That was a hard loss because it was so sudden and unexpected, even though June was 83. And just as we were recovering from that, we learned about Lisa, another saint of the congregation, who was much, much younger and very vibrant, though living with an apparent resurgence of a cancer we had thought she had beaten. Even though we knew for a while the cancer had come back, we still fully expected her to make a great recovery and return to all the many, many things she did among our congregation. So when she suddenly went into hospice and then died a few short days later, more wind got knocked out of my sails. And, as if all that weren’t enough, in the midst of Lisa’s slipping away from us, my mom back in Michigan had to make an emergency trip to the hospital and we thought we were losing her. So I had to go home for about a week and a half, and my thoughts weren’t much on catching up with the blog.

Anyway, two of those three things have “resolved,” even though they didn’t resolve in the way I would have wished for. I didn’t want June to leave us. I didn’t want to lose Lisa. Both of them have been real treasures to me, personally. I can barely fathom them, and remain kind of in denial. That’s what this Covid thing has robbed us all of – the “closure” of public, communal mourning. We did have a funeral for June, in a bit of a surprise move on her family’s part. I wasn’t involved in the planning, other than the liturgical aspect of it. Not casting any blame here; just saying that we didn’t expect more than five people to show up, so when closer to 30 people came, many of whom we didn’t know, that was its own brand of shock. And when it came to Lisa, she donated her tissues to others who needed them (so like Lisa to give literally OF HERSELF), so between that reality and the problematic nature of public gathering to mourn, the whole thing still feels a little un-real.

So where am I now, on a personal level? Well, my mom’s situation is “stable.” She has landed, for the time being, at a physical rehab facility, which is as welcome to her as an extra hole in the head. All she really wants is to be at home with my step-dad and her beloved dog, Buddy. But her medical situation is such that she simply can’t make it without around-the-clock care for the next two weeks or so. Her electrolytes and her blood pressure have been knocked entirely out of whack, and that has made her physically too week to stand or even to sit up for extended periods of time. Physical therapy for her involves sitting for an hour without getting dizzy and without her back muscles getting too tired. From there they should move on to standing up and maybe a bit of walking. It may be some time before she’s strong enough to go home. Being 83, her body doesn’t rebound from sickness as well as it once did.

All of this is hard. It’s hard for June’s family and friends. It’s hard for Lisa’s family and friends. It’s hard for my mom’s family and friends, and for my mom herself. This stuff is intense, and I’m trying really hard to take things in stride. I would like to thank my family for caring for mom when I can’t be there. I want to thank Pastor Bonnie of House Church for tending to Lisa and her family in the final hours and in the immediate aftermath of her death. I want to thank Pr. Liz from the Synod office for preaching in my absence. Catherine, Cathy, and Bob from the church made sure that Sundays went as smoothly as possible, and Cathy also managed to hold down the fort here until I could get back. The Core Council leadership, the Mutual Ministry team, just everybody has been great and gracious, and I give thanks for all of you. Every last one.

Since my mom isn’t entirely out of the woods yet, things remain in flux for me. I may be called home at any time. We’re going to move forward as if I’m back to stay for now, knowing that I may have to call on you to be flexible once again, at a moment’s notice. I’m sorry for that, but it can’t be helped right now.

I’d also like those of you who are members or regular participants in one form or another of our congregation to continue thinking about what happens next at church. In the not-too-distant future, we will have to begin some form of meeting in person again for those who are willing and able to come. Probably we’ll do some outdoor stuff, just to make things a little safer.

A little bit further out from that, we will have to decide what to do about our building. Giving is down significantly right now. That’s not to guilt trip or shame anyone. Times are difficult. But maintaining this 60+ year old building was difficult even before Covid hit. We’re at the point where we need to make some very big decisions about the building and, therefore, about the future of First Lutheran. Do we have to disband? No. We don’t. Unless we decide that it’s for the best to do so. But what will First Lutheran look like without this building? Who do you want to walk with you during the decision-making and afterwards? I’ve been with you for almost 8 years now. I came to you as a Mission Redeveloper, and with your great effort, lots of unexpected blessings from God and former saints of this parish, we have beaten the odds this long. Most people outside our congregation and staunches supporters didn’t think we’d make it three years (and were pretty vocal about it, too), and with good cause. 90% of redevelopments don’t survive. We did. We can be proud of that, but we also have to think about what’s next, and who you will want to shepherd you (really, it’s more of a walk alongside, because this is Jesus’s church and you are the stewards of the congregation; a pastor is there to help and support in any way she or he can, but probably shouldn’t “lead” the effort in the traditional sense. As I’ve always said, pastors come and go, but the people are the ones to determine what to carry forward and what to leave behind.).

I have spoken with several people about this already, and there are a couple of courageous, faithful folks who are willing to serve on a team of long-range planners. I need to chat with them again before revealing their names more publicly. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, pray about next steps. Dream about what church is meant to be and what forms it might take if it doesn’t involve this building. What would INSPIRE you? What would CHALLENGE you? What would UPLIFT you?

We’ll talk more as we go on. And I’ll be interspersing all of that with this Wisdom learning and other learning I’m engaged in. Call me. Tell me your hopes, your dreams, your fears. Wherever you are is where you are. Remember that post from a while ago about seeking and finding? “If you are seeking, you must not cease until you find. When you find, you will be troubled. But your trouble will give way to wonder, and in wonder you will reign over all.”

Wonder with me. Won’tcha?

Pr. Rob



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Roberto

I'm a recovering museum nerd who holds no authority regarding correct doctrine, biblical interpretation or anything like that, but who - with fear and trembling - is trying to work all that out.

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