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Committing to Connection

Rev. Carol Bodeau, Minister

Dear Friends, As the congregational year draws towards it close, there’s a lot to be grateful for, and hopeful about, at Westside. Our financial picture is looking brighter all the time; our sanctuary and building continue to get improvements that make our church home more safe and beautiful; and our community is growing in connection, strength and commitment. Thank you so much to each and every one of you for the part you are playing in this!

On May 22, we’ll hold our annual congregational meeting, to approve next year’s budget and set priorities for the 2016-2017 church year. When we gather, we will be talking about how to best use our resources and energy to make Westside a more sustainable and vibrant Pastoral size congregation. As you all expressed in our recent conversations, this goal—of stabilizing at 80-100 people attending each week—is something we believe is our next best step as a community. We also know that this will require conscious actions and changes, but we are committed as a community to going in this direction.

But what does it mean to truly be a “pastoral” congregation? The simple, but incomplete, answer is that a pastoral congregation is centered around a pastor or minister whose job it is to connect all the other groups within the church. But there’s a lot more to it than that. A healthy pastoral congregation is one in which everyone attends to the ministry of the church, where everyone does some “pastoring” to everyone else. In practical terms, this means that we all focus our attention and energies on how we can connect to, support, and serve one another through love, caring, and attention. Rather than focusing on creating programs, or activities, we focus on building relationships and supporting each other’s spiritual growth. {For a wonderful article on shifting from a “program” to a more relational focus, look at this article: “Is the Era of the Program Church Over?”}

So how do we do this? First, we shift and realign the structures of the congregation so that everything—and I mean everything—is connected to everything else. Committees pay attention to what other committees are doing. The Board and the staff and the Committee on Ministry communicate constantly with each other, and work to help all the parts of the congregation connect and interact with one another. We re-direct our energies from ‘doing’ things, to relating with one another and building relationships that extend into the larger community.

The key word for a pastoral congregation, and for Westside at this time, is connection. We need to be all about connecting to each other, and not just to the folks we already know and feel comfortable with. Our task must be to deepen and extend our connections: to grow more close to newcomers, to folks who are older/younger than ourselves, and to those with whom we disagree. We must stretch and reach and build bonds where they haven’t existed before. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be reflecting and acting on this concept, and I look forward to connecting with you about what you think, how you feel, and how you’d like to be part of this exciting movement.

In gratitude and hope,

Rev. Carol

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