If you have been following my posts, even sporadically, you know a little bit about my story. I'm the pastor of a small, rural congregation that has kept getting progressively smaller over the course of the last few generations. I began pastoring at Bergthal Mennonite almost 11 years ago and it's been both an absolute delight and a rare privilege. I couldn't have asked for a better faith family.
This church had so many things going for it. It is a very progressive congregation and its size allowed it to be pretty flexible, accomodating change at a fairly rapid pace. It is well educated and has a healthy demographic trending more towards young in recent years. It also seemed to channel a future vision of church that I found exciting.
However, as rural areas continue to face depopulation, certainly our location was not in our favor. And in all honesty, a progressive theology/ideology and a rural Kansas context don't quite go together like hand and glove. So despite our best efforts (and efforts there were!), we weren't able to stem the ongoing decline.
The plight of my church set me on an interesting journey, researching the current state of the church in North America, why it is in decline and what future models of church might look like. This was all revelatory and exhilarating stuff for me and much of what I learned I've shared in past posts.
About two and a half years ago we began a very intentional conversation about finally shutting things down. Bergthal Mennonite Church is 138 years old. Several of our members were born and raised in our church. Their great great grandparents were founders in 1875. So this was an emotionally laden journey and we needed all that time to work through our grief and make decisions we all felt good about.
The final Sunday in May of this year, we will host a Memorial celebration of Bergthal's life. People will come from far and wide to remember and honor this church's good and long life. And then our little faith family will gather for worship for one more month. We will have fun doing our last School Kit Sunday. On Father's Day my two children will be baptized. And the final Sunday in June, we will celebrate communion one more time. We will sing some favorite hymns. I will not do a sermon because emotion will surely prevent me from speaking. We will say our final benediction. With tears, we will celebrate the way God has blessed this fellowship. We will be thankful. And then we will look for signs of resurrection sure to come in the months and years that will follow.
What comes next for me is a bit uncertain at present, but I feel ready for a break from pastoring. It will be good to sit in the pews and participate in church as a layperson again. I'm looking forward to it.
This blog has served as a wonderful place for me to share my sermons over these last few years. However, I now find my sermons increasingly tailored to my Bergthal congregation and the message this fellowship needs to hear. And so the time seems right to step away from the blog. I do so with much gratitude to Sheri for giving me the opportunity to partner with her in this way. And I hope you all will continue to follow her posts as she works to stir the waters and generate needed conversations in the church.
Thank you to each of you who have taken the time to walk with me on this journey as told through my posts. Your support has meant a lot to me. Blessings to each of you, Lynn