So this Sunday I was just going to continue the next church in order. About the middle of the week I got a letter in the mail from a local address but didn’t recognize the name. I figured it was maybe an invitation to a reunion at a high school I never attended. I got one of those once- mistaken identity. I was wrong though. It was a handwritten invitation to lunch at that nice Presbyterian church I went to several weeks back. Exciting! I’ve been to almost twenty churches and left my address with several. This is the first church that has given me a personally written invitation back. And it was a lunch specifically for visitors.
Because I had been so personally invited by someone I actually talked with at the service last month, I decided to show up. I attended service first. Last time the interim pastor was away and somebody else filled in. So I got to hear Pastor Bob. I liked it, although I didn’t retain the message- probably because I was busy wondering what lunch would be like. After service I said hi to another woman I had met last time then found my way to the library.
I got to wear a name tag and chat a little bit with some other relatively new people. We sat down to eat and it became clear the pastor and welcoming committee were going to speak to us. I kept waiting for the ‘sales pitch’ (come join us, we really need you! etc) but it never actually came. Instead we got to hear some honest talk about how Delmar Presbyterian defines itself and what it would mean to attend there. And they even asked us for our input. Membership was mentioned but made out like an optional thing. Some people on committees aren’t even members officially. Everything was really low-key and informal. I liked the fact that they seem incredibly open to allowing people to be who they are. That seemed to be the case as much with newcomers as for the established congregation.
Recently, in order to prepare for the change in pastors (Bob is the short-term interim, remember) the church did a mission study to determine what the members are all about, what they are great at and less great at. They had attendees fill out a survey of 65 questions and used the answers to determine their identity and mission. One of the things that came through strongly was despite mixed theologies and political affinities, Delmar Presbyterian churchgoers had a strong sense of commitment to the interpretation of the two commandments of Jesus. Paraphrased it is, “Love God and love your neighbor.” The full verse is used in every Sunday service and taken as a part of the church mission statement. The survey also highlighted areas that represent challenges for this church to work on, such as events for youth and young adults.
It seems like they have a good handle on viewing themselves realistically. They aren’t seeing the church as a perfection, but they also aren’t seeing it as a charity case. As with anything, it has some positives and negatives. If they will grow and blossom during changing leadership, they need to be able to have this realistic type of outlook. It sounds like they are on the right track. I am curious to see how the process continues and will try to keep in touch with this church if I can within the project parameters.
Final thought: I met two other interim pastors in my life. They were both named Bob. Are all interim pastors named Bob? Until I have evidence to the contrary, I’m going with yes.