Anyone who has watched a childbirth knows there’s no easy way to be born. There’s also no easy way to be reborn, especially for churches. As odd as it sounds, religious institutions seem to be inherently resistant to change and transformation. About five years ago, Emmanuel initiated a strategic, long range planning process and, simultaneously, a search for a Senior Minister who could lead in carrying out the vision. I have just completed four years at Emmanuel. Not everything has gone as smoothly or quickly as we all would have hoped for but there are a number of important things which have happened which I’m very happy about:
– The Chapel and the Peace Lounge: Our beautiful small chapel was restored and has become a beachhead for prayer and meditation. The Peace Lounge, beautifully refurbished 20 years ago by Frank Cocheo, was in need of a facelift. With the help of artist Connie Buckler Gill, the Peace Lounge has become a truly peaceful and joyful place, a central gathering place for fellowship and church and community events.
– The building of a wonderful staff: Jo Marie, John Giresi and the Rev. Arturo Lewis have joined our ministry team along with Pastor Judy Wheeler. They are all outstanding. It’s been a joy to serve with Marek Jura as well. In addition, our regularly scheduled musicians have become a part of our worship team and church family.
– A welcoming congregation: Several years ago the church went public with its “open and affirming” position. We welcome not only persons of the LGBTQ community but an increasingly diverse group of friends and visitors. Our hospitality to all shines!
– Getting the church into the “world” and the “world” into the church. Emmanuel is becoming known as a vital part of the peace and justice community in Bergen County. As well, our outreach programs like “Uncoupling” and our many long standing mission and outreach programs reflect our growing strength as more than just a Sunday morning congregation.
– A 21st century congregation: We now have a high quality audio/video system, an appealing contemporary website and have rebranded our community church as simply “Emmanuel.” We are no longer the best kept secret in Ridgewood.
– A healthier church body: The Apostle Paul talked about “the spirit of unity in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) We are now a more unified, and peaceful congregation. We are more patient with each other and our communication skills have improved. Our trust has grown and our leadership has evolved. As your pastor I have felt growing trust and support in my leadership.
In many ways, our church is very lucky and very blessed. If anything good has happened in the last four years, it has been God’s gracious gift. I still want to see many more people find Emmanuel and for our outreach to continue to grow. The world needs Emmanuel!