Thankful for New Beginnings

Dear People of Bethlehem,

Fall is always a season of new adventures, a new school year, a new job or the beginning again of routines that have been relaxed during the summer months.  Fall is also a season of thanksgiving.  It is a time of harvest of the seeds sown, and our national thanksgiving day as well.  I would like to speak to you personally about both. 

I do not have enough words of gratitude to you, the people of Bethlehem, for the gifts and grace and joy of my 25th anniversary of ordination celebration.  Thank you for the plaque, the stole, the monetary gift, the slide show, the donuts, cupcakes and the memory book.  All are deeply appreciated.  Yet even more so, thank you for every kind word and heartfelt text, every hug and every gracious word.  Thank you for being part of the celebration last Sunday and thank you for who you are.  You cannot know how deeply your words and your grace have touched my heart.  It is my privilege, my blessing, and my joy to serve as your pastor.  It is my honor to know the gift of ministry among you, both now and in all that lies ahead.

I also want to make you aware of an opportunity that is before me.  This fall, I will be taking on a new role in the Pacifica Synod.  To be clear, my call as lead pastor here at Bethlehem will not change in any way.  I will, however, be adding 10 hours a week of work for the synod.  As you know, I have a passion for the work of the wider church.  Bishop Dave Nagler, the newly elected bishop of the Pacifica Synod, has asked me to serve as “Regional Assistant to the Bishop” for the San Diego area.  He has taken one full time staff position and divided it into four part time positions.  I will fill one of the four new positions created on synod staff, in order to meet the needs of the Church that is emerging post pandemic.  This is a new vision for the synod and I am very excited to be a part of it.  Though the role is not yet completely defined, I will be responsible for mobility (congregations in transition seeking new pastors or deacons) in the San Diego area and candidacy (seminary students working toward ordination and call).  Working with seminary students is particularly important to me.

I am very excited to help craft a new way forward for the synod and to use my gifts to help the wider church.  Perhaps the Pacifica Synod might serve as a model for whole church as we live into this new day together.  Having served in many synod roles in the past, I am keenly aware that my synod work will benefit the congregation, as I bring new ideas, new vision, and best practices for the work we do together.  The council is in unanimous support of this new role for me.  I was heartened by their enthusiasm at the last council meeting, when all replied by saying, “Congratulations!  This will be great for you, and for Bethlehem.”

And so, I return to gratitude.  Gratitude for you as a congregation and for your faithful, thoughtful and wide vision of who we are as church together.  I am so proud of our work here, and of our place in the Pacifica Synod.  Bethlehem is the kind of congregation that leans into the future with joy and always has the depth and breadth and heart to seek the wind of the Spirit. 

If you have any questions I can answer, please feel free to call or text me.  I cherish every conversation over coffee, and every opportunity to hear from you.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Laura