Reflections

Yesterday, I mailed the defense draft of my thesis to Luther Seminary. It’s the beginning of the end of my Doctor of Ministry. In April, I defend the thesis, and in May, hopefully, I graduate. The D. Min. program was a theological lifeline during the last three years at Grace in Detroit Lakes, reconnecting me with the wider church and renewing my mind and heart. I am a better pastor because of it. What I realized from both the D. Min. experience and my collegial relationships in the Northwestern Minnesota Synod (especially the text study and the Synod Council) was the importance of learning and growing in community – the community of pastoral colleagues, as well as the community of the congregation.
Now, we have been in Rockford for 1 ½ months. It has been a whirlwind. It was just a little over 2 months ago (Jan. 10) that I gave my one month’s notice at Grace: we left ten days early because I had accrued vacation time. The next week after giving notice, I turned in the rough draft of the thesis (Jan. 17), and we moved in to our new home in Rockford February 1, in the midst of a snowstorm. I officially started working at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on February 11. This first month at Good Shepherd has been wonderful. I am getting to know the congregation and their worship and community life. Worship at Good Shepherd is powerful and participatory, with an active choir and lay participation in every aspect of worship, including worship planning by the worship team: for the Lenten Wednesday services starting tomorrow, I am only preaching once (plus last week’s Ash Wednesday service): otherwise, lay church members are preaching. The music is awesome; the Liturgical Arts team is always doing something surprising and spirit stirring in the sanctuary.
We love our new home and neighborhood and city. We love our children’s new school: all three tested into the Washington Academy, an excellent public school. I have gotten involved with the Rockford Partners for Excellence (www.rp4e.org), a grass roots organization that is working to help the students, teachers, and administrators at the West Middle School right across the street from our church building. I also attend a couple text studies (though usually just one of them per week) and monthly Rockford Clergy meetings (including a Rabbi, an Imam, etc.) and monthly North Conference meetings. These meetings keep me connected and involved in the community.
I finally feel that the whirlwind is subsiding. On the bright side, one learns and grows through challenging times, and recent struggles opened doors that eventually led us to Good Shepherd here in Rockford. To deal with all of that, plus the D. Min., plus going through the call process, plus moving, all in a short period of time has indeed been stressful. This is a time of healing and rebirth, which is definitely how I am experiencing Lent this year. Now is a time to deepen in faith in God and build relationships with the disciples of Good Shepherd. Amen!

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