In some ways, the January front page for the Chapel Chimes is the hardest one to write in all of the year. We are not even at the midway point of December as I write this, and I’m supposed to be in a January mindset. If God allows, there will be a lot of things going on in the last two weeks of December that will shape how we see the coming of the new year and a new month. All of those happenings are but potential events that live only in my imagination.
However, this is what I do know: come January 1st, Dale Miller will be in his official capacity as Salem Plankroad UCC’s licensed lay minister, and his Service of Farewell will have been a memory. I want to take this time to express my deepest gratitude for Dale’s ministry in our midst and for his support and friendship in and outside of ministry. It has been a pleasure to watch Dale utilizing the gifts and talents he possesses for ministry. Those gifts and talents will now be utilized in a different congregation, and our loss at Salem will be Salem Plankroad’s gain. I’m sure you will want to join me in wishing Dale all of the best in this new calling. Our hearts and well-wishes go with him.
What is also certain at this point is the outcome of the December 3rd congregational meeting to vote on proposed by-laws changes. The vote, which was 68 yes, 28 no, and 4 abstentions, sets in motion changes in our definition of membership. We are asking persons on our membership roll to let us know if they desire to continue to remain with Salem as a member in covenant, and to re-affirm that covenant on a yearly basis. Instead of having the church monitor communion and attendance requirements as the basis for membership, it will be church members deciding, for themselves, what their level of involvement will be. It is a commitment that we make to God’s work and to one another, as members of the congregation. Instead of spending time on bookkeeping and maintenance tasks, we will be encouraging people to be actively involved in the mission of Christ’s church.
It’s a new step for our congregation, but it’s one that we feel will free us to more fully pursue the mission of the church. I anticipate that it may take us a few months, the first time around, to get all of the pieces in place, but I believe it can have a positive impact on the life of the congregation in the long run.
In keeping with this new move, we will be setting aside time in worship, both on January 6th—Epiphany—and January 7th—the Baptism of Christ—to remember our baptism and our covenantal relationship with one another.
Perhaps it is typical of January that we focus on both farewells and new beginnings. May God’s grace be with all our endings and beginnings in the new year.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Jim Hoppert