It is true, time seems to pass exponentially faster as we age. The weeks run into months, the months turn into years and the years blend into decades. It now takes me several months into the new year before I actually begin writing the correct date for the new year! I will have served at Emmanuel four years in April. I was called to help lead the church into a process of change and transformation and I have to say that the challenge has been even more than I expected. The Northeastern United States is known for its historically low rate of church attendance and Bergen County is no exception. The good news is that we are now beginning to see a returning group of new, diverse and energetic persons into our fellowship. We are also reaching out to the wider community in ways that aren’t directly apparent in the Sunday service. The Uncoupling Group, the Peace and Justice Forum, the Community Pasta Dinner and our mission and outreach programs continue to flourish and expand and help identify our congregation as an open, outward bound, and progressive Christian church. Our new part-time associate minister, the Rev. Arturo Lewis has completed one year of work with us and building bridges with youth and young adults and is working with me planning for 2019.
There are many new persons who need to find the compelling message and caring, inviting community that Emmanuel offers. According to a recent poll cited in the New York Times, even though interest in institutional religion has been decreasing since the 60’s, the search for “peace and well-being” has almost doubled. Yes, human beings have always had and will continue to have a longing for the “transcendent,” or as I call it a “spiritual g.p.s.” which points them to a deeper and more authentic life. I will be looking forward in the coming year to bringing a sermon series on “the spiritual journey” to meet those spiritual seekers at their point of need and interest. As well, we will be experimenting with some new and exciting forms of worship to speak to the needs of our diverse audience.
I am so thankful for my great staff at Emmanuel and for the many gifted lay leaders who do much of the heavy day to day lifting in order to keep things running smoothly. Most importantly I am ever grateful to my wife Connie who supports me and this church whole-heartedly and joyfully makes the sacrifice to be separated from me for many weeks out of the year so I can do the work I feel called to do. I hate to say it but soon I will be writing my year end column for 2019, so don’t blink or you’ll miss the new year. I hope we all can “redeem the time” so that we can make the most of the months that lie ahead. To quote the Psalmist, “May the favor of the Lord rest upon us, and establish the work of our hands, yes establish the work of our hands.”