I’m writing this letter from the porch at Morning Call, where I am overlooking 2 cemeteries and a bank of blooming banana plants. I hear the familiar clanging of a streetcar. I’ve just finished a café au lait. It is a quintessentially New Orleans moment and I am grateful.
In the 2 ½ weeks since I started these coffee/office hours, seven people have stopped by for conversation. These conversations have been rich, as we have talked about so many things – mission, ministry, being Lutheran, former pastors of Grace, how New Orleans became home, places that used to be home, family relationships. Some of the conversations have been deeply personal; others have been more about the institution, though through a personal lens. And the weather has come up, because these weeks have had near perfect days.
One take-away from this time (that you likely already know) has been that people yearn for connections. We all like to be known, to be heard, to have our concerns listened to and taken seriously.
Another is that people really love Grace, even as you do not all experience it the same way. Some would be happy to have it stay exactly as it is, though maybe with more people. Others would appreciate a deeper connection with the community outside of the church walls. Some simply do not know what to think about the changes in church and world that have been so constant in the last 40 years.
As you know, the provisional leadership board has been working together as they explore possibilities for Grace’s ministry and future. A focus of my time with them and all of you is to accompany you in that forward-facing work. We learn from data and from people who have experience in church transformation. We pray a lot, study the scriptures, listen to the current congregation and the community outside of the church doors. At its heart, it is about listening to God and being open to whatever new directions God may be calling this congregation to. It is not easy work, and it requires courage and commitment on the part of your leadership. You might want to thank them for their leadership!
I look forward to conversations with many more of you in the weeks to come. Whatever you want to talk about, I want to listen and learn from you.
Grace and peace,