Well, actually it's 76 congregations. That's the count so far. I'm continuing my efforts to visit all 185 congregations of the New England Synod. A quick look at my calendar suggestes that by the time we get to the Synod Assembly in early June, I should have been to roughly 120 of the congregations. This effort is yielding some great benefits, and I'm seriously likely to continue visiting and revisiting congregations over the years. Though I'm not likely to be able to continue at the current pace.
Some recent highlights:
- A joyful visit to Our Savior Lutheran Church in Newington, CT. When I asked the people in attendance how many had joined the congregation in the last two years, nearly 50% of the hands went in the air. THis place exudes joy. Children abound, engage in lively conversation, and assist with the liturgy. This is evidence that our congregations can reach out and connect with young families.
- A challenging discussion with the people at St. Mark's in Woonsocket, RI. They have been served on a part time basis faithfully by Rev. Alan Grant, a retired pastor for nearly 3 years. But, Alan is now ready to enjoy his retirement, and head for the lakes so he can start fishing. The congregation is in a tough position as it can only afford a part time minister. We talked about the challenges and realities of doing ministry in a changing world.
- The good folks of Gloria Dei in Forestville are engaged in some meaningful social ministry and outreach to the community. It was also here that I met a young man who showed me his newest tatoo. It's a testimony to a life changing experience as a part of a bicycle trip this past summer, where he and other ministered in churches, schools and shelters.
- Prince of Peace in Brookfield, CT hosted an evening meal and worship service on a Saturday. We discussed the events in nearby Newtown, CT, and I met people from that congregation who are providing meaning ful care and support for the people of Sandy Hook.
These visits are wonderful ways for me to look, see and touch the ministry that is happening in our synod. Now that I am about 40% into the congregations, I am starting to see some patterns, concerns, themes, that will come together. But, I'll wait a bit longer to share what I am finding. Keep watching.