As I end this second time among you, I find myself deeply grateful for your hospitality and warm welcome. The last three months have offered blessings that we will spend the next season of our lives counting. Charnley joins me in thanking you and your leadership team for another opportunity to serve!
I don’t believe in coincidence and live my life trusting that my journey always unfolds within a pattern of “Godincidence.” Often, in the moment I fail to appreciate that, but more often, these small miracles are revealed later.
That’s certainly true of our involvement with this congregation. Our daughter Joanna came to Ft. Collins as a graduate student many years ago. We visited her from New York City and later Naples, Florida and worshiped with you each time we were in town.
We came here because of my deep respect for your Senior Minister as a trusted colleague since both of us were serving important congregations in the United Church of Christ. Little did I realize then that this would lead to your invitation to become Hal’s Sabbatical Interim four years ago. I willingly accepted that assignment because working with you enabled deeper contact with our Ft. Collins family that now included a son-in-law and two delightful grandchildren who had made Plymouth their church home!
That time brought us into deeper relationship with this congregation and with members of your staff. I had the joy of serving then with some very talented ministers and staff members who have moved on to splendid new chapters in their careers and others who are still with you. Can I confess now that I had some role in mentoring Jake to seek and to embrace a more challenging opportunity? It was time for him to do that, and I encouraged him to further develop talents that the larger Christian community needs. You blessed him with a good beginning!
One thing I learned over the years is that great congregations nurture and support great staff teams and that key lay leaders play an important role in encouraging the work of a successful ministry team. That never happens perfectly because of our flawed humanity, but when it is happening, strengthened congregations are made stronger and more vital and leaders, lay and ministerial, are empowered rather than discouraged.
This time I have had the great honor of serving with Hal as part of your team in the limited role of Bridge Interim. This has been a beautiful experience watching and supporting a fine leader doing a difficult job.
The past twenty months of pandemic have turned most of what I understood about church leadership on its ear. Across the religious landscape, church conflict and staff transitions have multiplied and that is going to increase in the coming months. My son, who is a hospital administrator and psychiatrist in New York City reports that similar tensions exist in virtually all institutions, especially institutions charged with caring for others and supporting emotional, spiritual, and physical health. He suggests that we all need to treat one another with grace and patience. That’s a doctor’s order that needs to be closely followed!
I was not surprised that Plymouth has experienced some conflict. But instead of hiding it or ignoring it, your lay leaders, and your Senior Minister, engaged the best professionals available to seek solutions to the conflict, developed a new staffing plan and worked to re-conceive your mission vision as a congregation. At the same time, your leaders found a way to update your lighting, live-streaming and sound capabilities, bring the underutilized and often invisible creativity of the 6:00 pm worship experience to the 9:00 am hour giving it so much potential, hired an amazing person in Christian Education whose presence at Plymouth will nurture my grandchildren and all the children and youth in spectacular ways, took a science-based approach to worship and programming possibilities in these crazy times that include being flexible and nimble given the future’s uncertainties. I’m impressed!
And so, Charnley and I continue our journey with thankfulness, knowing that our family in Ft. Collins is part of a congregation of talented, faithful, and caring people who are in tune with the love of God and alive to new possibilities.
Thank you for allowing us to be with you!
Dr. Ron Patterson