Initial Reflections on the history review by Pastor Pete
The reason I do this event is to begin to answer the first of the four main questions the STM process is structured around: Who has Christ Community Church been?
As we talked that day, I filtered and listened for significance of events, for emotion or ‘energy’ in the telling (be it positive or negative) and just other things that ‘grab’ me as likely important to the question. Where are the scars, where has God’s blessing been felt, things like that. Usually I process this information with a Transition Team and they formulate a report. There is going to be some loss of effectiveness due to that not being a viable option at CCC. If you want to take the time — before reading on for my interpretation — it could be a help if you wrote out some of what you heard about who CCC has been and shared it with me. What follows is what stood out for me.
We had a good Saturday morning together telling, hearing, and exploring some of the stories of the formation of Christ Community Church and events in her history. There were more people there than I expected, and participation was good. Of course people with more life experience (ahem) had more stories to tell… so we skewed appropriately to giving them time. One of my hopes for this time together was that it would be interesting for those who are more recently part of this congregation to hear these stories. If you were not there at the event, ask someone who was about what the drawings all represent and how they were organized. It would make this post excessively long to explain that here. What follows are the things that stand out for me in my memory and some comments sharing how I interpret them:
As shared in the meeting the forming of CCC was primarily driven by the desire of families with children to have a worship location closer to ‘home’ and even in their own community of St Albert and area. This was for convenience and better opportunity to engage/minister to a community. It had become challenging to get kids ready and get all the way over to North-East Edmonton for church activities. The reason for forming is, in my experience, important to be aware of to be looked back on as to whether it is applicable today still or not.
Reflection/explanation: One reason I ask for this info is that in my experience the motives or drive behind a congregation’s forming becomes a subconscious part of the “DNA” of a congregation. If the motive is negative – for example “we all didn’t like the worship style or the pastor of the Mother church” that is a negative motivating force that could be still negatively affecting progress for God’s glory. This sounds to me like a positive motivation. The challenging question that comes to mind is what has become of that DNA, of those goals? Very few members live anywhere near the church today, and some drive farther to get here than the formers drove to the mother church back in the day. Makes me say “Hmmmmm!” Causes me to ask: “What changed?”
Very interesting. It would be interesting to set up a map in the lobby and have everyone put in a pin representing where their home is… Anyone want to volunteer to do that?
We heard about two seriously traumatic events in the history of CCC. One involved a son killing family members, and another a person in military service dying. These are the kind of thing that are huge shocks to a church community, especially the killing. Suddenly a congregation is faced with hard questions and new unpleasant insight into human brokenness and depravity. From the stories told at the gathering, this situation was dealt with appropriately, with grief counselling available and the like. I got no sense of either being an ongoing cause of pain that needs healing.
Two ‘mismatch’ pastors in the past
Two pastorates in CCC’s history did not work out so well. The specifics do not matter so much as the fact that this is your story. Both mismatches sounded to me like they were rooted in some theological and spiritual differences between the pastor and congregation, along with maybe some character or cultural issues. Another part of that story that I think I heard is that some pastors did not see their role as being a co-leader but a sole leader to be followed. Right there we have identified three things to pay particular attention to in the pastor search process! The more recent of these situations still had some ‘energy’ or ‘charge’ to it when it was discussed. That too is significant for me to have seen.
One highly regarded pastoral couple from the past
There was one pastorate that, when it came up, generated a chorus of positive comments and example stories tumbling forward. They tended toward acknowledging that this was a “pastoral couple” who took on the work as a team. That was followed by a list of initiatives started in the time of this couple’s tenure at CCC. I felt this as a very positive ‘wind’ or ‘rush’ in the story telling. I also know that teams like that are rare, so know that this was exceptional. Here again is something to note for the eventual calling process: discussion needs to happen around what role, if any, the spouse feels they will have in the ministry so that expectations can be set appropriately.
Initial, first reflection conclusions:
There are more things to note than I have written here. Reviewing the history sheet would bring more to mind. The above is simply what stood out for me. I am getting a clearer picture with each event and conversation I have. It is clear that the formative “DNA” of the origins of the congregation (and the DNA is what becomes invisible or normal to the members) was to form their own Reformed Church of America worshipping community closer to where most of them lived, and to connect with and minister to the community in which they lived.
A two pronged question that arises is:
With few current members living ‘in the community’ and no or little community connection, what has become of those values? Are they still stated values of the congregation? We may need to explore what I call the difference between stated values and lived values. I will create a blog post in the near future in which I explain what I mean.
Was that original idea or vision ever revisited and adapted to new situations?
Was there a time (maybe at the previous location) where the vision was active and alive? Or did it never really ‘take’?
Another question, mainly shaped by your pastoral history is:
Has CCC clarified what they actually expect of a pastor?
This was a very helpful event for me as your STM in getting more of an idea of who you have been. My own answer to the question “Who has CCC been?” is:
CCC is a congregation that once was young families and vigourous and originally dreamt of having her ‘own’ localized space in which to be church together and connect with her community. The generation that started out with that vision are now grandparents. Few of their offspring remain part of CCC. Along the way she has been a community of support for her members through hard tragedies and has toughed it out through two challenging pastorates and several more effective ones. Mis-matched pastorates seemed to have cross-cultural differences and theological/spiritual differences at their root. Each involved membership losses when they ended. Effective pastorates included factors like: an involved pastoral spouse, active community outreach, programs, and “pulling together” in several senses of the words. More recent pastorates involved good preaching “learn something every Sunday” and had deeper personal learning going on (Ridder). Attendance and participation numbers have been diminishing steadily for 10 years. Some South African familes came in the last 15 years. Filling leadership positions has become a challenge. The younger members are primarily involved in worship leading only, the older ones in other postions. Only one part of the original vision seems to have been fulfilled, namely that of being her own worshipping community closer to where her members live. Community connection and growth has had spurts of effectiveness, but has not been a sustained success. All who remain today have a clear sense something needs to change in order for CCC to flourish, but not much clarity on what that needs to be. Together we hope and pray that God will help us see a new future and find the courage to seek after it.
Comments on my observations are invited and welcome! Use the comment box below. Because there is a lot here, make sure you first mention what you are responding to.
The next “Town Hall” event is being planned for May 4th. It will focus on how you all generally feel about CCC today and the future.