It was a busy weekend for the NT-NL Synod. Synod Council met beginning Thursday night with new member orientation. Friday was a full day of meetings with council and Conference Deans. We discussed the trends of our synod, where we thought we might have opportunities for growth, and how we can further develop the leadership center at Briarwood.
Saturday we dedicated the Mama Jean and Pastor Eric Shultz Memorial Climbing Wall and zip line at Briarwood. It was a festive day with many of the donors and families present. After the dedication liturgy, many had the opportunity to try the zip line, including the new associate pastor at Trinity, Fort Worth, the Rev. Matthew Paul Schroeder.
Sunday I spent the morning worshipping with Pastor Chuck Hubbard (Gloria Dei, Garland) and Pastor Kurt Fredreich (Ascension, Garland). Ascension has sold its building and is now worshipping on the property of Gloria Dei. They worship at a separate time and in a separate space as they discern their next steps in ministry.
Sunday afternoon another experience with a congregation that is NOT choosing to close but recognizing that facilities built in and for a previous generation may not be the best plan for their future. Walnut Hill, Dallas, is another such congregation. Their facility is not appropriate for their future plans and ministry, so they have sold it with the plan of relocating to a more flexible and multi-purpose ministry space. As such we had a service Sunday night to give thanks for and to officially “close” the sanctuary as a space for worship. They will relocate sometime in the new year.
In both of these cases there are many, most who have been unconnected to the ministry of these congregations for many years, who lament these decisions or see them as a “failure.” In fact these are deeply prayerful and faithful decisions. The spaces in which we worship have deep meaning for us and hold many memories and often grief for those who inhabited those spaces but do not now, grief that must be acknowledged. Yet as the old song reminds us, the “Church is not the building, the church is not the steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the PEOPLE!”
Bricks and mortar come and go. We give thanks for the memories and the people who helped build these places. We remember saints like Mama Jean and Pastor Eric, and we also must move forward in faith. I give thanks for faithful communities who do just that. #NTNL #InMissionTogether