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We at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church are in transition. Now is the time to think long and hard about our future as a church in the Lutheran tradition serving the Seacoasts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Please share your thoughts by commenting on any post, and come back often to see what your brothers and sisters in Christ are saying! (Click here for more about this blog and how to participate in this conversation.)
The Transition Team is pleased to announce that the outcome of our efforts will be shared with the congregation between services on Sunday, October 2. Please join us for this important milestone in Holy Trinity’s future!
At this meeting the Transition Team will review its recent efforts and we will share a few specifics about the input the congregation provided in our various surveys. An expanded set of results from the surveys will also be made available on the Holy Trinity website. Lastly, and most importantly, we will provide a copy of the Ministry Site Profile (MSP) in draft form as a takeaway. The congregation will be asked to review that document in the days thereafter in order to provide feedback to the Transition Team by midday on October 9.
The ELCA describes the purpose of the MSP as follows: “The MSP is meant to be a conversation starter or introduction to the life and work of your ministry site. It is not intended to be an exhaustive description of every aspect of your ministry. Focus on the key things that describe your ministry site in order to pique the interest of prospective candidates for call.”
On this same day Holy Trinity is holding its first one room school house faith formation activity for people (of all ages). This may be helpful for parents who wish to attend the Transition Team session.
Even more exciting; once the final MSP is approved by the Council which we expect will occur on October 11, the process for calling a new pastor will begin!
Just in case you were worried that your Transition Team (TT) had taken a summer vacation, here is photographic proof that we are hard at work on your behalf.
Seriously, we have continued to make significant progress toward completing the Ministry Site Profile (MSP), which Holy Trinity needs to submit to the New England Synod so it can start scouting candidates who might serve as our new pastor.
Here’s what we’ve been up to and what comes next:
Please keep praying for us as we work on translating all of your input into the document that will be key in finding our new pastor.
Many thanks to Jo Whiting for writing this Transition Team update.
We’ve talked about the CAT survey, discussed different Lutheran viewpoints, and learned how our differences strengthen us (the survey and Mark Edwards’s talk on Lutheran Diversity are available on the Transition Team blog).
Our next step is to describe what kind of a church we want to be three to five years from now. To help us write that description, we are hosting Sunday discussions after service on July 17 and July 31 to obtain your insight and feedback.
In preparation for these discussions, here are some questions to ask yourself:
1) What is it about Holy Trinity that most effectively feeds you spiritually, and that inspires your passion and energy?
2) Looking forward, what do you feel would bring energy, passion, inspiration, excitement, life, vitality, and/or meaning to guests, potential new members, and present members?
We invite you to participate in one discussion session, or both! We look forward to spending this time together, hearing your ideas about what does, and will, bring us closer together as the Body of Christ.
A special thanks to Beth Frede for authoring this update.
On Sunday, June 12, Mark Edwards led an adult forum session entitled “Characteristically Lutheran: The Broad Spectrum.” The following is an in-a-nutshell version of the history and beliefs of the Lutheran tradition, as well as an explanation of what holds us together as Lutherans despite our differences. Enjoy!
The word “Lutheran” names a community within the larger Christian community. Lutherans have distinct beliefs that identify the community as such. We, as frail human beings, are individuals who worship in that community. As Lutherans we say that we are simultaneously righteous through Christ, and sinful in ourselves. Lutheran churches make up part of the visible church.
As members of the visible church, we associate with the hearth and home and/or paraclete cultures on various levels. Our congregation is not divided into just two separate groups; often, our faith and traditions are far more varied and complex. For example, it would be impossible to divide the congregation into blondes and brunettes: What about the “enhanced” blondes? The redheads? The members with gray hair? What about those who do not have any hair at all?
Identifying our varying levels of association with these cultures will allow us to understand the diversity that exists within our congregation. Did you know that Lutherans actually have a history of division and infighting? On the other hand, Lutherans also have rich theological resources for understanding and profiting from diversity and difference. In fact, Lutheranism celebrates the ability to disagree and to see that there is often more than just one right answer.
While we are members of the visible church, we are also a part of the invisible church. Too often we think that God’s church depends on what we do. It’s really the other way around- what we do depends on God. That is the invisible church.
With our differences aside, all Lutherans believe that the teachings of Jesus can all be understood by the three solas: grace alone, faith alone, and scripture alone. We believe in good works, not in order to be saved, but because we have been saved; We trust in the promise that Christ’s body was given for us; We believe that the bible is the ultimate authority of our faith lives. These are truths of the Lutheran faith that we can all agree on, whether we identify as a paraclete, hearth and home, a combination of the two, or an entirely different culture altogether.
In conclusion, it’s okay to be different. Our church is a community. It’s defined by what it does as a community, not by what we individually feel or believe. Since we are all saved by Christ, we have a responsibility to think about others and to use our minds. We need to think about the ways in which worship and fellowship accommodate the variety of people, all of which are a part of the visible church but also the invisible holy catholic church.
Thanks to Emily Reny for writing this update for the Transition Team
A video of Mark's entire presentation is available in an earlier blog piece below.
This article was first published June 22, 2016 by Alban at Duke Divinity School
Excerpts from the subject article:
“As the common saying goes, “attitude is everything.” It is what makes the difference in how hospitable a congregation is, how externally-focused it is, its priority for spiritual growth, its openness to change and so on. The determining factor in congregational flourishing often comes down to attitudes. Change initiatives can grind to a halt when prevailing attitudes impede movement… Consequently, discovering the core beliefs of a congregation’s attitudes is the vital first step...”
“A century ago the renowned psychologist William James wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” The same can be said of churches.”
Read the full article by Peter Coutts.
There have been two recent adult forums discussing the Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT) results as well as a presentation by Mark Edwards on diversity in the Lutheran church. Videos of each presentation are available by clicking the subject titles below.
Accessing these videos requires that you login to your My HTELC account. Getting a My HTELC account is a simple process so please register for an account. If you have an account but have forgotten your password you can easily reset it by clicking “Forgot Your Password?” on the My HTELC login page.
CAT Survey Results – Session I, April 3, 2016
CAT Survey Results – Session II, June 19, 2016
Lutheran Diversity, June 12, 2016
We all find comfort in the beginning words of Ecclesiastes 3: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. With that in mind, as well as our commitment to transparency in our process, the Transition Team would like to share our timeline for completing Holy Trinity’s Ministry Site Profile (MSP).
Completing the MSP will not be the end of the Transition Team’s work, but it will signal the beginning of the actual call process (we can hear some of you cheering!) as the Synod will begin looking for candidates for us when we submit our MSP. At the same time our Church Council will select a Call Committee who will be tasked with reviewing the pastoral candidates, interviewing them, and selecting one for recommendation to the Council and congregation.
With the summer upon us, the Transition Team has worked to establish an MSP timeline that allows time for thoughtful discussion and communication with the congregation while keeping in mind the interest we all have in meeting our new pastor and moving forward into our next chapter.
The timeline we are planning is this:
o June 12: A session with Mark Edwards entitled “Characteristically Lutheran: The Broad Spectrum.” Lutheran Christians are a diverse group, held together by history and a few key emphases within the Christian tradition. We observe this whether we look at our partner congregation in Isimani or at our own fellow members here at Holy Trinity. Mark will discuss with us what makes us Lutherans—what unites us—given our wide set of beliefs, practices, and preferences.
o July 17 and 31: Dialogues regarding what we want to look like as a congregation going forward; what we mean by “change” at Holy Trinity; what changes we are willing to embrace here; and how those should be implemented.
As Yvonne Topping so eloquently reminded us at the May 22nd Adult Forum discussion, we must continue praying to and trusting in the Holy Spirit to see us all through this important process. Please keep the Transition Team in your prayers.
A special thanks to Jo Whiting for authoring this update.
In our continuing series of updates from your transition team, we’ll explore two “cultures” that exist at Holy Trinity, and the opportunities and challenges these cultures present. It is necessary to understand who we are as a congregation in order to determine what gifts we need in our next called pastor.
As we digest the results from the CAT Survey and Joys and Concerns Survey, the results are fairly consistent: we have a variety of opinions about our identity as a congregation. From education to programming to music and worship, we have different ideas about what will feed us spiritually and help us grow as a community.
A closer look at these differences reveals two main cultures that exist within our One Body. Emily Swanson, owner and president of Holy Cow! Consulting (and the producer of the CAT Survey), describes these as a Paraclete Culture, and a Hearth and Home Culture.
Each culture comes with its inherent blessings and challenges.
Those who identify with the Paraclete Culture are primarily concerned with maintaining a faith community where intellectual curiosity and reflection are welcome, yet where structures and practices are in place to provide the necessary stability for spiritual growth.
Paraclete members have a passion for healing ministries, and for providing a welcoming haven to those in need of healing or recovery. If not mindful, though, these members risk burnout by overcommitting to meeting others’ needs. In working hard to comfort others, Paraclete members can lose sight of the transformative power of the gospel.
The Hearth and Home Culture has a different focus.
Members who identify with this culture appreciate having a clearly defined faith that gives life structure, stability, and clear distinction between right and wrong. These members turn to the Bible as a more literal guide to living, and see their fellow church members as more than just community…. They are family. Like their Paraclete counterparts, Hearth and Home members also feel strongly moved to provide services to those in need.
Members from this group are focused on traditional understandings and practices. Without balance, this can potentially lead to conflict or misunderstanding; when members focus too much on Biblical teachings from a concrete perspective, the focus on mission may be lost.
Some of us identify strongly with one culture in particular; some may be a mix of the two; still others are waiting to see how our faith community defines itself.
So how do we bring our perspectives together? In a word: flexibility.
While each culture has a different focus, we can build from those places where they overlap. Both groups have a strong desire to minister to those in need; both groups value a warm and welcoming church home; and both are fortified by God’s word.
If you identify with the Hearth and Home group, begin by asking yourself: “What tools can I use to better connect with my Paraclete brothers and sisters?” And if you identify more as a Paraclete, ask “How can I create a stronger connection with my Hearth and Home family?” In either case, ask yourself, “How do I see the gospel message being proclaimed in Holy Trinity members whose culture is different than mine?” The strengths of each group beautifully complement the other, and contribute to our shared vision for Holy Trinity as we move into the future together.
Please join us on May 22nd for Adult Forum to talk about our cultures further!
Your Transition Team is sharing this recent article with you.
This was first published in Alban (www.alban.org)
Updates from your Transition Team.
Over the next few weeks, your transition team will be keeping you informed about the subjects on which we are working and will be asking for your input and insights as we work toward a common vision of Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (HTELC) in the future. We will also be holding sessions periodically in which all members who want to share their insights will be given a chance to do so. More on that to come….
The first subject in this series is why Holy Trinity has decided to undertake an intentional interim period, under the guidance of Pastor Koch, rather than hire a new pastor as soon as we could find one.
We believe the wisdom of the Council’s decision to engage in an intentional interim period has been underscored and validated by the results of both the Joys and Concerns Survey conducted by the Council before that vote and the CAT survey conducted recently.
Together, these surveys strongly suggest that our congregation is made up of multiple interest groups. Examples include: some believe we are a welcoming congregation while others do not; some believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God, while others do not; some are willing to adapt our worship to the needs and circumstances of people we want to reach, while others do not think that is necessary.* Our diversity of opinion is a good thing, for it means we have members who are engaged enough to have an opinion and to care about HTELC.
It also means we have work to do, together, before we call our next pastor. We need to talk amongst ourselves, recognize and respect our differences—and then figure out our common mission path. This is work for us to do—not our next pastor.
It may seem a daunting task, but it can also be an uplifting and energizing one. Once we have done our work, have found our common ground; have established our mission paths—then we can look for the pastor who can lead us on it. Following this plan gives us the best chance to have our various interest groups working together, to have our next pastor be able to lead us forward in the direction we have decided together, and to have Holy Trinity thrive in the years ahead.
As you consider this message, think about these questions: 1) What are some of the interest groups here at Holy Trinity that you can identify? 2) What do all of us here at Holy Trinity have in common despite our differences? 3) What are the most effective ways you can think of for a church’s members to find common ground and work together for a common purpose? 4) What positive power do you see from having a congregation filled with a diversity of opinion and life experiences?
*You can view a video discussing our CAT (Congregational Assessment Tool) results at http://htelc.com/home/our-congregation/in-transition/cat-1. You will need to enter your Holy Trinity member password for access.
Your Transition Team:
Ray Masse, Chair
Martha Belanger (Council Liaison)
George Koch (Senior Intentional Interim Pastor)
A special thanks to Jo Whiting for authoring this update.