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Installing Pastor 2.0

The following is an article I wrote for our November Grace Notes:

A couple weeks ago I posted a Facebook status that read, “The Bishop is Installing Me.” A fellow computer-loving friend commented, “remember, before installation, close all programs.” I appreciate this kind of humor, and those of you who are fellow techy-geeks like me probably do too. I ran with this techy pun and responded that the bishop is installing Pastor 2.0.

This November is a big month for me and for Grace. It marks the end of a 2.5 year journey that we have taken as a community. I came into this place in January of 2010 with fear and trepidation of reentering ministry. God has moved through this congregation to instill me with renewed passion for the work of God’s grace in the world. After many months of interviews, papers, and waiting, the ELCA has officially welcomed me into the fold as a rostered pastor and now the bishop will install me on November 11 as the Associate Pastor of Spiritual Formation.

What does that mean for us? At the practical, day-to-day level, it means very little. I will do the same things that I have been doing: working with youth, teaching adult classes, supervising staff, ministering in Word and Sacrament. At the deeper, existential level, it is profoundly significant. Now, I belong. It’s not that I didn’t belong before, but now it is official.

This has caused me to reflect on why it is important to be part of a local congregation of Jesus-followers. Many people in our culture today fall under the category of “nones.” They claim to be “spiritual, but not religious.” I respect this, and understand where they are coming from. I suppose I was a “none” for a while as I was healing from difficult ministry experiences. Yet, having been in the self-sufficiency of the “none-zone,” I realize that it really is just that. None. Nothing. Just me. Alone.

God never intended for us to be “nones.” We were created to be in community; to belong.

An analogy that helps me understand the difference I’m experiencing is that of children and family. It is one thing to be a child in foster care. Your foster parents can love you and shower you with the affection and attention that you desperately need, and it is good. And yet, it is an entirely different thing to be adopted by those same parents. Foster care is temporary; contingent. Adoption is a formalized ritual of permanence and acceptance. The parents who adopt a child communicate a deep commitment that goes beyond words. It is a ritual that says, “you’re ours for good.”

Bishop Ann is installing Pastor 2.0 this November. Grace Lutheran Church is adopting me as a Pastor. Foster Care is over. I’m home. Thank you for your Grace, my brothers and sisters. I can’t wait to see what God does with our family as we strive to be a ministry of grace in the heart of Andover.

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