November is the time of the year that we set aside to give thanks. Of course, we need to give God praise and thanks throughout the year but we are especially mindful at this time of year. I am particularly thankful for the journey that I have shared with you as Interim Pastor of this blessed church. We are embarking upon 65 wonderful years of ministry in this community. It is a great accomplishment for a church to be able to withstand the shifting sands of culture and time. But alas, we are still here, you are still here. I am glad that our church is still standing and still serving as a light of the gospel in an ever increasing dark world.
The changing times are providing churches with a challenge to reexamine the way they do ministry and how they will function in a world that is markedly different from when some of our churches were first built. I am confident that the Levittown Presbyterian church is up to the challenge of change. Our elders and deacons are doing the work of reflection and discernment to determine where we need to go as a congregation. I am happy to report that we have completed 4 stages of the Interim Ministry Process which are; 1) Coming to terms with history 2)Discovering a new identity 3)Managing shifts of new leadership 4) Rethinking denominational linkages. We are now entering stage 5 which is commitment to new leadership and a new future. During this stage we will begin the process to complete a CIF (Church Information Form) necessary to call a new pastor. In reality, given our financial situation, it would likely be a call for a temporary supply pastor or part time stated supply pastor. The good news, however, is that there are many possible models for ministry that our church can examine going forward. One of them is to look at the possibility of entering into shared or yoked ministry with another church.
The Presbyterian Community Church of Massapequa has extended an offer for us to consider the possibility of entering into shared ministry. In that both of our churches, (Levittown and Massapequa) recognize the same issues; decreasing membership, financial support, and Sunday morning worship attendance, it would seem advantageous to open a dialogue for very preliminary discussions concerning a possible mutual ministerial presence and shared mission and outreach. This of course is truly the basic question that must be addressed before any other discussions or actions can take place. Do we want to create a new realm of ministry in our communities? Members of our session and deacons were asked to meet with the elders and deacons of the Massapequa Church along with a representative from COM and our General Presbyter to moderate the combined meeting of the respective boards and to answer basic questions and to confirm the willingness to unify ministry.
A meeting was held on October 20th to examine and discuss how we can best decide among the leadership of both churches that a new unified ministry is to be considered. Once it was established that we did indeed want to explore the possibility of mutual ministry we took time to discuss issues and concerns as well as opportunities that would arise if we undertook such an endeavor. Most agreed that shared ministry would be cost effective and may present an opportunity for increased membership and help with the churches overall mission. As expected realistic concerns were raised about the future of both buildings and nursery schools if we decided to merge. We were informed by COM that we have a long way to consider a major merger of ministries but we were encouraged to begin thinking of ways that we can share in ministry through various means such as pulpit exchanges, shared Bible studies and the like. It was decided to form a combined committee will be formed and made up of three members from both Levittown and Massapequa to initiate the process of working together towards a plan for shared ministry. When the committees meet and come up with a plan of action we will follow up with a congregational meeting to keep everyone in the loop. The Presbytery also offered to serve as a resource and to help us once it is determined how we decide that we will work out this mutual ministry.
I am excited about the possibilities that await us. I think it is a win – win situation for both churches as we will benefit from collaborative leadership which is sure to bring new ideas and renewed energy in addition to saving money on clergy costs. The elected leaders of our congregation will lead the way in determining how we will go forward but it will be important for them to hear your feedback and for you to participate in the process as it unfolds. Of course, any, thoughts, ideas, and plans for ministry must be supported by prayer and participation in the process. I ask that you continue to pray for our church and how God might be leading us in the near future.
Yours in Christ,