State of SOTV (Fall 2022)

By Rick Summy, Senior Pastor

The following article is adapted from the Leadership Team/Council kickoff meeting on August 18, 2022.

The last few years have been something else, haven’t they? Whatever the new normal turns out to be it won’t be the same as the old normal. What exactly it will look like is yet to be determined. Stay tuned.

Many people have been very kind in thanking me for the leadership, creativity, and innovation our staff provided throughout COVID. We are deeply grateful for that appreciation. But there is also more praise to be shared. The members of this congregation have continued to put their trust in us and have provided the necessary resources so that we can still be the large, vibrant, faithful church that we have always been.

This last fiscal year was a bit more difficult than the previous couple, for a variety of reasons. It’s been a time of being back and not back simultaneously; a time of fits and starts. We knew that masks were necessary for quite some time, but I don’t know anyone who likes wearing one. We’ve grown accustomed to waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’ve grown used to being isolated and distant from others. It’s easier, perhaps simpler, to just stay away. The body of Christ has not been ripped limb from limb but perhaps our tendons have lost some elasticity, our muscles have atrophied a bit; maybe our connections have grown more tenuous and we’ve forgotten how badly we need one another to truly live. And everything, it seems, costs so much more than it did before. Even so, we still sit in an enviable position financially and are more than capable of keeping it that way.

We are a bustling place of mission and ministry. We celebrated our 10/20/40 anniversaries in style this past year, raising over $100,000 for the organ, Tanzania, and our digital outdoor sign project. Christmas and Easter celebrations were glorious. Children, Youth, and Family ministries began to thrive again. And I will challenge anyone to read our October News for the Flock and not be impressed with the variety and scope of our outreach and benevolence ministries.

We’ve had some staff transitions and still have several key openings, but the new staff are outstanding and it will be wonderful to work with all of them. There’s no replacing Pastor Randy, but we hope to have a new Connect pastor sooner rather than later. And I am ever grateful for my pastoral colleagues, Lindsey Bina and Peter Harrits.

Not long ago I was anticipating that I would be talking about kicking off a capital campaign this fall. But it became clear over the summer that coming out of COVID, whatever that means, is taking time and a toll that necessitated a slowing down, and a commitment to care and listening.

It is time to be together again, as best we are able. It is time to try to figure out what it means that 300 households worship with us virtually each weekend, while so far, fewer folks join us for worship in person.

It is time to remind ourselves of what God calls us to do, to tell the stories of ministry together. We will gather this fall, perhaps more than once, to Embrace Hope and celebrate our life together.

The church council will be participating in a cultural awareness inventory guided by Pastor Peter this fall, and will discern where next steps in our journey together might be in this regard.

I anticipate that our Reconciling in Christ process toward a transparent welcome for members of the LGBTQIA+ community will conclude this fall and that our Equity Leadership Team will begin meeting as well.

It is also time to review the goals we had just started implementing prior to COVID.

  1. Ministry in times of transition
  2. Retiring our debt
  3. Growing both wider and deeper as a congregation
  4. Increasing our benevolence giving

Are these the goals we wish to rally around for the next few years? Are we missing something important? We want to hear from you and will set up opportunities for conversation. (And you know where to find me.)

Can we raise $65,000 for the St. Paul Area Synod’s “Planting Hope” campaign this spring?

Might we be ready next fall for a campaign that would raise two million dollars for projects like a front porch/canopy to shield members from the weather and serve as a clear architectural signal to the community that our series of buildings is indeed a church; retiring our debt to make space for new, exciting ministries; installing solar panels to power our buildings, which would be more earth-friendly and provide cost savings; and perhaps some technology updates in response to a world that will continue to count on online options?

As we begin to address these and other questions in the year to come, let’s make sure we make time, perhaps this year more than ever, to be, to listen, to care, and to connect.