"The LORD is good;I haven't been able to get myself to write much since early in April. I have wanted to but I haven't yet found the right time; or, perhaps better said, I haven't yet had the deep sense of peace that I need to write what's been on my heart and mind ever since I learned of the turmoil that my friends and partners in ministry have been through. A lot has changed since the first week of April -- not directly with me -- but in the lives and teamwork of men and women that I have appreciated so much over the past 3 years.*
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations." (Psalm 100)
I've been so thankful for this team. Most of them have been on the leadership staff of North Heights church** (in Arden Hills and Roseville, a group I've prayed with regularly for 2 years). I say most of this team have been a part of North Heights simply because that church is so large. Others are connected too. At the beginning it was just Community of Hope (Rosemount) and little us in Cokato, but since then pastors from several other churches in the Twin Cities area have joined in for message planning and/or leadership huddles. The leader of this informal network of churches has been Per Nilsen. Until last week Per was also senior pastor of North Heights.
What I've been wanting to write about is what's happened with this network of support in the past few weeks. Most of the staff that I've had direct contact with at North Heights have resigned.*** I've had limited contact with them in the past few weeks so I don't know a lot about what has gone on. There have been a few days when I've been able to pray with many at our regular early morning prayer time on the phone, but the last two days I phoned in no one was there. We haven't had our 1:00 PM every-other-Monday leadership huddles and we haven't met in person yet to do the final teamwork on the series of messages based on the Bible book of Nehemiah that were planned for summer.
In talking with Per it sounds like he's thinking that all of these things will begin again, but I'm not sure when, or who all will still want to be included. Whether or not anyone from North Heights will be involved is something I don't know. Or, whether the new leadership staff from North Heights will want to keep the network together without Per's leadership is also something I don't know. It's all in flux right now. And if it was primarily all these relationships that kept me afloat I'd be in a rough spot.
But the truth is that it is the LORD who is truly faithful. He will not abandon me. Because He is with me, I am not afraid even though I do not know what will come next.
I'm taking some practical steps--staying in contact as much as I can with the various individuals, being available for them when they want to talk, holding them all close in prayer. I've also finally started the official process to join the Alliance of Renewal Churches as an individual member. Even though I know I'm not alone spiritually, the Lord does give us other human beings and relationships as a part of his work. He makes us for one another--and we're not only called to love the LORD our God with everything we are and all that we have, but we are also to love others as we love ourselves.
Continue to pray for all of us as we walk through these changes with our faithful God.
* Back in early 2011, around the time I was coming on as Crossroads (part time) pastor, the "launch team" was getting some simple organizational matters in place. We got some ideas from other churches, including ideas about bylaws from Community of Hope (church), where Per Nilsen serves as lead pastor. In addition to his work at COH, Per had been at the time, recently installed as senior pastor at North Heights (church) -- a much larger Christian community with a long history and association with the charismatic movement and "Lutheran Renewal" -- the organization that sponsored the 1980 event where I first heard God's call to serve as a pastor.
** I got particularly connected with the North Heights staff because for two years we got together on the phone for prayer 5 days a week at 6:30. I didn't always call in, and during this last year I've been less faithful, mostly because of a change in my school bus driving schedule, but even so it's been a comfort to know that I have been welcomed and appreciated as a part of this team. Jean Bearden, Marcus Haug, Jo Saxton, Chris Saxton, Eric Bluhm, Phil Mather, Bob Burmeister, Mindy Bak, Per Nilsen and perhaps others that I've forgotten have been a part of this prayer group, at least part of the time. Besides them, Steve Wiese and Greg Berglund have participated in the message planning group that I mentioned above.
*** I'm not going to try and dissect what all led to the staff changes there. My guess is that it's complicated. The current pastoral staff has put me in contact with the "board of elders" there and I look forward to talking with them.