WORDS FROM W.W. January 24, 2013
Last Sunday was the seventh year in a row that the pastors of the five neighborhood churches in our area traded pulpits. A Mennonite can become a Lutheran, a Presbyterian can experience being a Baptist, and a Methodist can be anyone of the aforementioned. We change preaching venues on a Sunday in mid-January to early February…and go at it.
The congregations love it. In fact, most of the members of each congregation look forward to it. When the Lutheran pastor came to our church a few years ago and delivered an eight minute message I had people the next Sunday asking when he could come back. I enjoy speaking in different churches because there are plenty of jokes I can tell about being a Baptist pastor. I’ve got a lot of bizarre stories as well, because “truth is stranger than fiction.” Being a Baptist pastor for almost 34 years now I can attest to the truth of that statement.
The value of trading pulpits for one is that as pastors, we visibly display our belief in, and commitment to, a church that has many shapes, sizes, emphases, colors, and looks, but one Lord, one Savior, and one Spirit.
The other value is a growing sense that other churches aren’t the enemy. Or even the competition. Just as I say that it takes the church and the school to partner together in creating a healthy community, I also believe that it takes our churches linking together in proclamation and ministry to be light in the midst of darkness.
There are many things that Dan Holt, Senior Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, and I can spend our time disagreeing on, but what we are united about is that Christ means Hope and Life and Truth. Of our eight pastors serving in the five congregations I am probably the most conservative theologically, but we don’t belabor our differences. We respect and value each other. To often value gets attributed only to people who resemble us.
Last Sunday I spoke in the Methodist church. I told them early on that the good news was that if I screwed anything up not to worry, Pastor Larry would be back next week. I had a good time delivering the word of the Lord. I’m almost afraid to say this, but they were perhaps even a little more receptive to what I was saying than my own congregation, because I was a new voice to them. Sometimes the familiar voice is respected and honored, but not necessarily heard with as much attention.
When our neighborhood pastors meet again the first Wednesday in February we will talk about how it went. There will be a heightened sense of connectedness with one another because we trusted each other, and our congregations trusted us to provide someone who would be faithful in bringing the Word of the Lord to them.
It was good!