You, who have shown me many troubles and calamities,
will revive me once more.
From the depths of the earth,
you will raise me up one more time.
While gazing out the window this morning while sipping my first cup of coffee, I recalled that but six months ago the snowy landscape of the backyard, blanketed by the hush of a crisp December morning, was but a verdant expanse of lush green grass filled with the cacophony of birds and squirrels and insects starting their day. Goodness gracious, how time flies!
With the realization that Eric and I have now lived in Stewartville for half a year (and what a year it has been!), I took a quick inventory of my experience so far as pastor of Stewartville UMC:
· Since our move-in day, I have met dozens of friendly, welcoming, helpful, generous church members and staff, and have received boxes of garden produce, handwritten notes of welcome, emails and prayers of support, and yummy home-baked treats. Both Catie and Laural welcomed me with open arms (not literally, of course!), showing me how things are done at SUMC, while being open to any changes I wanted to make as the new pastor.
· In spite of the lower half of their faces being masked, I now recognize a handful of members, and have gotten to know a few people moderately well through visits, phone conversations, and in-person worship.
· With the aid of some very patient staff and members, I have started putting together mental maps of SUMC family connections; I have learned from my experience pastoring congregations in rural communities that when starting a new appointment , it is useful to learn who is related to whom within the congregation. At my previous appointment in Glenwood this practice paid off, when one day during Confirmation class, I mentioned that two of the students sitting with me at the table were distant relatives through marriage: ‘Really? Oh, yeah. . . I guess we are cousins!’
· As a pastor, nurturing personal hobbies is important to maintaining one’s emotional health; as an avid sewer and novice quilter, I have made a mental list of those folk who are into sewing a quilting, with the hope that when COVID is over, we may form a church quilters group. Through conversations with church musicians, I now know of opportunities within the Rochester community to play my flute and piccolo once the pandemic has ended.
· I have started attending the Stewartville Ministerial group. It is helpful to build connections with fellow clergy in a new community, and to get an idea of the needs of the community. I am getting to know fellow UMC clergy in the area, primarily through Monday’s Zoom “Lunch with the Pastors” and monthly Zoom meetings with pastors from the Rochester area.
· I have joined the group, Friends of Stewartville, which is coordinated by Family Services Rochester. Friends of Stewartville focuses on the needs of older residents of the community. My hope is to create connections between myself, SUMC, and opportunities for older residents in the community.
In spite of the challenges COVID has caused in forming relationships with the members and staff of SUMC and the Stewartville community, I am so thankful to God for calling me to Stewartville UMC, for opportunities--through shared experiences over the past six months--to nurture budding friendships, and for the promise of good things God has in store for us as we move into the new year.
Christmas blessings, and joy for the New Year,