by Dawn Brock, First Lutheran Member and Chairperson of the Call Committee
It’s been some time since the Call Committee has provided you with an update. For those of you who couldn’t join us for the annual meeting preview sessions, I’ll provide you with a summary of what we learned from the Nebraska Synod in January 2023. They shared some sobering statistics:
- One in four churches in Nebraska are in the process of calling a pastor.
- The average time churches have a vacancy is 18-24 months from the time of posting their position online (First Lutheran’s position was posted September 2022).
As of today, we have yet to receive a slate of candidates from the Synod.
I’ve had several months to reflect on this information and what it means for the call process and our path forward at First Lutheran. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, frustrated and maybe even a little angry. We’ve been through so much as a church in the last few years. Can not just one thing be easy?
Thank you to the members of the congregation who, after coming to the annual meeting preview session/annual meeting, have emailed, called or personally suggested possible candidates. The congregation has submitted 12 names to the committee and Synod that potentially would be a good fit for the position. Synod staff continue to be in discussions with possible applicants.
Despite the sobering news, I want to encourage you. Now that I have had some time to personally pray and seek God I realize that this is not a surprise to the God we serve. God is more than able to meet us where we are and to journey with us. God has a long history of traveling with and leading people. In fact, the next time you are in our Sanctuary think of the Israelites and look at their story and God’s promises to them reflected in our stained glass. The pillar of cloud by day (the blue glass) and the pillar of fire by night (the red glass) guided the Israelites during their exodus from Egyptian bondage. This allowed them to travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21-22 explains that God gave them the pillar of cloud by day to lead them in the way he wanted them to go and the pillar of fire by night to give light. The pillar was not just symbolism, but a real phenomenon. We have no way of knowing how God made the pillar, but it was a miraculous event that God used to lead them for their forty years in the wilderness. During the day the pillar guided their journey. During the night it gave them light, and no doubt, comfort. First Lutheran, will God not do the same for our beloved community?
In addition to guidance for the Hebrews, the pillar was a testimony to other nations concerning God’s involvement with and protection of his people Israel. In Exodus 14:24 God troubled the Egyptians through the cloud and Moses used this in Numbers 14:14 in his plea to God to not destroy the Hebrews because of their sin. God’s provision of the pillar was remembered in the prayer of the Jewish leaders in Nehemiah 9 as an instance of God’s care and provision for his people. Exodus 13:22 says, “Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” The pillar is a picture of God’s faithfulness and a lesson to us that God never leaves nor forsakes his people. He reminds us of this in Hebrews 13:5–6, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me.”
I pray sincerely though that it doesn’t take us forty years to call an Associate Pastor. Please join me in continuing to pray. Remember God’s promises when you enter our Sanctuary and view our beautiful stained glass. God IS leading and guiding our congregation and we will not be forsaken.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Click here to follow the call process, see the Ministry Site Profile reflections and review what we are looking for in a candidate on the Call for an Associate Pastor.)