First Presbyterian Church’s Handbell Choir, directed by Cathy Ferrand Bullock, has become extremely popular in Cache Valley and has a reputation for excellence in a variety of music– religious, patriotic, classical, or show tunes. More than twenty ringers comprise the interfaith group, enjoying the challenging teamwork of playing five octaves of bells and chimes. Anyone is welcome to join when vacancies occur. The bell choir plays several times a year during worship services at the Church, as well as for Christmas programs at the Logan Tabernacle, and for other organizations.
A New Journey (to a Place We’ve Already Been?)
Not long ago we held a congregational meeting to approve an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC) to begin the search for a new Associate Pastor for Christian Education & Youth Ministry. We are taking the first steps to getting back to a place where we have two pastors on staff, like we did when I first arrived in late 2012, through May of 2015.
Our congregation went through a discernment process about hiring an Associate Pastor (which turned out to be me) some years ago, back in 2011. But we have many new members since that time, and churches are living things rather than stagnant buildings; they’re always growing and shifting into new entities. So we are going to be engaging in a discussion about the importance of hiring an Associate Pastor over the next six months or so, while our APNC is hard at work. One step we’re taking is a congregational survey & questionnaire, which we will be distributing to you in November, to help us understand some of your wishes for the vision and mission of our congregation.
There are some risks associated with this, but Session and the Stewardship & Finance Committee have carefully—and prayerfully—considered this move, and we feel like it is the right step for us at this time. Based on conversations with many of you it seems like the congregation believes it is the right move too. Our youth programs have been doing very well in recent years, and we want to continue with that momentum and inject even more energy into the areas of Children, Youth, and Young Adult Ministries. These programs are critical to our vision for ministry. Did you know we have 74 young people that are in the ages directly affected by these programs (from nursery age up through young adult/college age)? Seventy-four young people! That’s a great reminder of how important this position is for our congregation and the surrounding community.
The question on many peoples’ mind is “can we afford this?” . That is an important question. I am reminded that in recent years we have proven that we can afford this. I served here as the Associate Pastor for two and a half years while we still had Pastor Paul as our head-of-staff pastor. We have demonstrated our ability to pay two staff members in the past. And during that time we even were raising a considerable amount of money to pay off our building debt and for the beautiful organ restoration project. I recognize that there may be some fear associated with us going out on a limb to hire a new Associate Pastor. This is indeed a leap of faith, but one that we believe is reasonable.
Friends, I believe we can afford this! I believe it is crucial to the mission and ministry of this congregation and the position we hold in Cache Valley. Our youth and children’s programs have been quite successful in recent years, and I feel that continuing pastoral leadership can bring so much to these programs. Members of our congregation have been doing wonderful work helping in many areas of youth ministry (and will continue to do so), but with a seminary-trained associate pastor there is so much potential.
Some people have asked if we could hire a “Christian Educator” for this position (a non-ordained position, as opposed to an ordained minister). This is a possibility, and would perhaps save us some money, but there are a few reasons we have decided not to do this. The first is that it isn’t easy to recruit and bring a certified Christian Educator to Logan, Utah (the position typically pays less). It also might not be much cheaper for us to hire a CE Director, because of some requirements for providing insurance through the Board of Pensions or through a third party. I believe that there is quite a lot for us to gain by hiring someone with a seminary education. An ordained minister means another staff person who can help with weddings and funerals, pastoral care and counseling, and has three years of theological education to help with youth ministry programs, and other activities around the church.
The APNC has completed the job description for the position (called the Ministry Information Form), and it will soon be making its way across the country to those who might be candidates for our position. Will you please join me in praying for this process? Let’s pray for our youth ministry programs (the young people who are part of them, and the adults who are helping with wonderful leadership), the APNC and their work, and for the person that God will be calling to serve our congregation.
When I look at the ministry we have First Presbyterian Church, I am reminded that we are called to always be stepping forward into new and wonderful things. Not being satisfied with the status quo. Let’s ask ourselves, “Do we want to stay right where we are, or do we want to venture forward in faith to someplace new?” God has great things for our future.
Peace and grace and joy to you all this day,