What a year it has been for us all.
When we met you, we knew that hiring two pastors was not what you had imagined. In some ways, the decision to do so represented risk for the congregation. I am grateful, and know Vince is too, that you took the risk. Already, it’s abundantly clear to me that the risk – to hire two pastors, to configure our pastoral work in the ways we have – was worth it. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been church together only since the end of September. In those 8 months, we’ve seen not only growth but also signs of potential for yet more new life.
For me, the great pleasure of our life together is Sunday worship. (Of course, worship is the beating heart of any Christian community.) While staying true to the “DNA” of worship at Bethany — including the beautiful music led by Yasuko — we have stretched ourselves in joyful ways. We’ve reintroduced or added poetry, children’s sermons, new forms of music (sung by pick-up choirs, but also by you in call-and-response, learning new pieces from around the world) and, a particular favorite of mine, bells on Easter! To me, our worship feels traditional in the best ways and at the same time, fresh.
I am grateful to be in this work with you, expanding our presence here on Paulina and Cullom, in Chicago at large, and in the world. There is imagination for how better to welcome our neighbors, through a perhaps updated iteration of the Living Nativity, and: will we start holding summer evening events on the lawn again? There is imagination for how better to speak out for justice in Chicago, as Melissa and Ryan Andrews, among others, have been bitten by the Community Renewal Society bug: how can we use community organizing to strengthen our church and advocate for others? There is imagination for how to be the body of Christ in the world in this particular moment: with Judy’s leadership we have had the chance to welcome refugees in very real ways. And the historic work of the church continues as well, held by many hands. I look forward to inviting even more Bethany friends and members into that work.
Entering in any relationship is a kind of gamble on the future, a promise built on possibility, hope, and trust. In so many ways, you have welcomed us into relationship as your pastors. I am grateful for the welcome and grateful to be church with you.
Pastor Rebecca Anderson