a little r & r

What a great Sunday we had this last Sunday, August 15th!

The most special moment occurred when the children came forward for the Blessing of the Backpacks midway through the service. Though we are infinitely grateful for each child we’ve had since approximately early March (ranging from around 2 to 11 children each week) it was amazing to have 22 come forward for the blessing this Sunday!

And while we were doing our usual thing at the start of worship, I could see more chairs were being put up in the rear of the sanctuary as more and more people came to worship. Later I learned we had something like 100 people at church. On top of this, we had 65 “views” on Facebook. Assuming at a rate of 1.3-1.5 persons/view, this made our viewing congregation between 86 and 102! So, we had between 186 and 200 in attendance on Sunday!

One question on everyone’s mind since COVID-19 hit 18 months ago and Johnny Lewis’s departure as pastor a little more than a year ago has been: Will our church return to its pre-pandemic, pre-departure of the former pastor, state? It’s a great question, even as it arises from some natural anxiety after what the church has gone through the past year-and-a-half.

Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball with a clear answer, including yours truly.

But if this past Sunday, August 15th, and the formal Farewell Sunday to Johnny, on August 1st, give us any clues, we may safely say the church is headed in the right direction. As I said above, this past Sunday we had in the upper 100’s in worship (in-person & on Facebook). On August 1st we had some 80 folks in attendance and another 40 views on Facebook (giving us around 145 in total attendance that day)!

Since December 6th through July of this year, as people have become more comfortable attending worship, our numbers in worship have nearly doubled. We have gone from averaging 20-25 in worship 7 months ago to averaging 40-45 over the past couple of months. No, these aren’t the kinds of numbers everyone had gotten used to pre-pandemic and Johnny’s departure.

But the pandemic put the Kibosh on everything in 2020. Besides which, the church went a long-time recording worship services before Live Streaming. It was clear from the dismal numbers of those tuning in to those recorded services that these services were not doing the job. Live Streaming on Facebook became an absolute necessity if we were to pull out of the post-pandemic, post-pastoral slump, which we have!

It is a certainty the church is walking not crawling anymore.

The prospects for late 2021 and 2022 are even brighter! The Pastoral Search Committee is progressing nicely. Hopefully we will have the name of a candidate to come before the Board and before the Congregation in the next month or so! Assuming this goes well, by likely no later than November 1, a new senior minister will be in place, which means there should be another major bump in increase in worship and Sunday School attendance!

Our Over & Above Campaign: “SCCC: Where Love Grows…Investing in Our Church’s Future” will wrap up on “Celebration Sunday,” August 29th. Two or three weeks after that we will have a clearer idea of how much improved the church’s financial outlook will be over the next couple of years. The campaign goal is $125,000, a very reachable goal, according to our denomination’s Church Extension liaison, Dr. Craig Walls, and to our campaign committee.

Already, over the past 18 months, we have made good financial progress. At the nadir of the pandemic the church was running on fumes with only a couple of months cushion for meeting expenses. Because of 2 PPP loans, one of which has already been forgiven; a 20% discount on some staff salaries, the church’s landlord’s willingness to postpone 3 months’ rent (December ’20-February ’21) to the end of the lease, and several 2020 year-end gifts pre-paying pledges for 2021, the church now has a 10-12-month cushion for meeting expenses.

Candidates for senior minister applauded the congregation for conducting our “Where Love Grows” campaign as an attractive feature of the church, which meets its challenges head-on rather than hoping that waving some magic wand will solve our problems. The “Where Love Grows” Campaign, conducted over the next 2 years, will further extend the financial sustainability of Shawnee Community beyond the present 10-12 months, so the new pastor can focus on ministry and not money all the time.

Between…seeing all the people and kids last Sunday, the 15th
…knowing the church is in a better financial position than a year ago when it felt like the
bottom had fallen out
…realizing groups are still meeting and will start meeting
…recognizing a new pastor will be coming on board in the very near future, and
…that this church doesn’t balk at challenges but meets them head-on, not to mention
…the sheer joy of one another’s fellowship meeting every week in-person
gives us all a lot of reason for optimism and hope.

It’s like the psalmist says, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” We know all about weeping, but we can also see the dawning of a new morning for our church. It is with this excitement we can come to Celebration Sunday, August 29th and know it is true: God is good!

Love, hope and joy to us all!