Five years ago today I was installed as pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California. As with many things, it seems like it was both yesterday and a thousand years ago. But here are a few of my thoughts that have bubbled up along the way.
It takes about five years to get to know a congregation, and another five years to get to know a community. Years ago a seasoned pastor told me that, and I think it is generally true. Holy Cross is very much home for us now, and it is hard for me to imagine being anywhere else. California and Rocklin are still a bit surreal, but I expect that will keep coming along the way. It just takes a certain number of major life events to really get to know people. Baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals all shape the pastoral relationship with a congregation, as well as the week-to-week preaching and teaching and celebrating the Eucharist together.
California is not as weird as I thought. People are people, and while the context of ministry changes from place to place, our common humanity binds us together more than it separates. While there are some unique pastoral challenges here that weren’t in the Midwest, the Word remains the same, and Jesus remains the same in Wisconsin, or California, or to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Our common humanity is not as clear as it once was. The things that bind us together as human beings continue to become more blurry. Marriage, family, children, things that were once obvious and taken for granted are less so now. It’s hard to pin down, but there is a shift going on, no doubt about it. I have found myself addressing more issues of human sexuality today than I have in the past, and I believe that will continue and expand, not revert back to what it once was.
I love my family, and I recognize the sacrifices that they continue to make in order for me to serve Holy Cross. I’m not saying this because their sacrifices are so much bigger or more pious than anyone else. It is, however, a simple reality that we are really, really far away from our families. That continues to be the single biggest challenge to our living here.
I have grown as a pastor since being here. Going to a new congregation was very good for me as a pastor, even though it was terribly hard for me to leave all our friends in Kenosha. I am a bit more circumspect and a less impulsive when it comes to pastoral care and congregational leadership. Plus moving gives me a whole new opportunity to mess up and receive forgiveness! That has to be good.
Those are my thoughts on this Friday morning. Now it’s time to write a funeral sermon for a dear parishioner, finish up things for Sunday, and begin year six!