Associate Pastor’s Report: January 2019

Last Sunday, Epiphany Sunday, marked my one-year anniversary here at Tabernacle. As I moved through worship that day—setting up communion, preparing worship leaders, greeting those entering the sanctuary, and sensing the anticipation radiating from twinkling lights overhead—I felt a wave of peace and joy… a deep sense of home. It takes a long time to get to know a congregation. It takes years of hearing stories, walking through tragedy, attending meetings and parties, and learning rituals and sacred cows. I’ve only been in Richmond a little over a year, so I know I am a long way from knowing our church community fully, but with each week, each month that passes, you begin to feel a little bit more like my people. And this place begins to feel a little bit more like home.

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind of the joys and the challenges of ministry. Here are some of the highlights:

Children’s Ministry
One of the initial tasks on my job description was to offer support to the Children’s Ministry Team. In my role as “ministry architect,” I was asked to help this team assess and reorganize children’s programming around a clear set of values and to eventually hire a Children’s Minister to lead them in this work. I am delighted to report that we have done just that! Over the past year we grew the Children’s Ministry team from 2 members to 5 members, we had a series of listening sessions with parents in order to discern our goals and values for the formation of our little ones, and we hired an amazing new part-time Children’s Minister, Jerusha Moses! It’s been a joy to work with Jerusha in the on-boarding process, to hear her ideas and her vision for Children’s Ministry at Tabernacle, and to see her deep heart for God’s people in this place.

Another area of ministry that I have focused on in my first year is communications. When I arrived, Allen Lowery was serving as Interim Communications Assistant while the church continued to discern the best shape for this position. Allen was excellent in this role, but when Allen left to pursue other work, we needed an interim for the interim! Our current pastoral intern, Jacque Green graciously stepped into Allen’s shoes. Jacque brought her organizational skills and attention to detail to this work in a way that helped us to see how valuable it could be for us to hire someone with equal skills in the areas of design/communication and organization/workflow management. While I was working with the Personnel Committee to draft a job description that reflected this, Jacque Green was called away to chaplaincy work, and Terry McMahon volunteered to step into her 20hr/week position during our time of transition. Terry’s consistent presence, keen insight, and natural calm demeanor were an amazing gift to us during the busy summer months, as pastoral staff traveled to various camps, conferences, and vacations. I don’t think we would have been able to produce the bulletin each week without him!
While Terry worked to get our weekly publications to press, the Personnel Committee and I created and posted the job description for our new Communications Coordinator position. We sifted through over 110 applicants for this position, narrowing it down to 3 phone interviews, 2 in person interviews, and one final candidate, whom we hired in July, Hope Cutchins! Hope has been an amazing gift to Tabernacle as we’ve re-visioned our communication strategy, created a new bulletin, and launched a weekly e-mail, The Tab Weekly. Hope has helped us shift our communications approach from an emphasis on print and Facebook with some level of prioritization, to an organized, prioritized, and visually engaging strategy that includes print and Facebook, as well as website development and community emails. We have made tremendous strides toward stability and strategy in Tabernacle’s internal communications approach this year. Next year we hope to continue to expand our strategy to include how we communicate who we are and what we are up to with the neighborhood and community around us.

Sterling and I are still working to determine exactly how my gifts can be used to contribute to administrative processes at Tabernacle, outside of communications. However, there are a few administrative tasks that I have taken on throughout 2018 that may be helpful for you to know. In January, I took over the leadership for our All Staff meeting, which includes some pastoral and all administrative staff. I have also taken on, in conjunction with Personnel, supervisory responsibility for non-ministerial staff members, including Susan Lumpkin (Finance), Vincent Sallie (Custodial), and Hope Cutchins
(Communications). It has been a joy to get to know and work more closely with each of these individuals who contribute so much to the life of our congregation, mostly behind the scenes. In the fall, we conducted annual reviews for these positions. I hope having a ministerial staff member present for the reviews enabled us to see more clearly how we can better support our employees. As a result of these reviews, Personnel has proposed a change in Vincent’s job tile and responsibilities in 2019 to more clearly reflect the work he actually does. For a one-year trial, Vincent will move from “Custodian” to “Building and Grounds Coordinator.” He will continue to be responsible for custodial duties, but he will also serve as the staff liaison to the Building and Grounds Committee and will have more input in repairs and maintenance.
In addition to staff-related administrative tasks, I collected data for the work of the Nominating Committee. I compiled information from each committee chair about what that committee will be working on in 2019 in order to better select leaders for particular tasks and positions. This year, I have been taking notes on the nominating process in order to expand our recruitment and development of leaders in 2019.

Pastoral Leadership
In June, Sterling, April Kennedy (the chair of my search committee) and I met for a check-in. We realized in this meeting that while I have been busy working, much of it has been behind the scenes. I was hungry for more interaction with congregation members, and there was a need for my leadership to be more visible. In response to these concerns, I spent the second half of the year shifting my leadership focus to more relational (and often more visible) endeavors. In September, I started the Lectio Divina group that gatherings on Wednesday evening to read Scripture and pray. This has been a lifegiving space for me to get to know congregation members more deeply. I also began preaching more regularly in the fall, a passion of mine, and led a 5-week writing class in Youth Worship Arts. This writing class was one of the highlights of my year. More than half a dozen young women gathered in order to listen closely to scripture and craft theologically rich pieces of writing to be used in worship during Epiphany 2019. Hogan Brock and I also worked together during December to organize an evening of contemplative worship to help us start off Advent in a state of deep connection to God and others. All of these opportunities have given me great life and great joy this year!

Lay Leadership Restructuring
In the final months of 2018 we made progress on one of the initial goals of my hire—helping Tabernacle rethink its structure of lay ministry. We have such gifted laity (that’s you!) and we want everyone at Tabernacle to find a place of service in which they can share their passions and gifts. In December, the Deacon Board approved a proposal for four new Ministry Teams to help us facilitate this process. These ministry teams will be developed around our four core values: Mission, Discipleship, Worship, and Fellowship. The teams will be comprised of deacons and laity who are passionate about each area of ministry, and each team will have a staff liaison to support the team’s work. We are excited to get these teams off the ground in 2019 and our hope is that they will help bring new vision and energy to the embodiment of our values!

Looking back on 2018, it has been a busy year. It has been a year of transition, new experiences, new people, lots of learning. But looking back it seems to me that we as a congregation, and I as an individual, are finding a new sense of stability. As a congregation, we have grown our staff to a full and amazing group of leaders. We have tweaked and organized our leadership and administrative processes. And we have done so while listening deeply to God’s vision for our shared life together, and how our congregation can be a part of healing and wholeness in our community and our world. Thank you for the ways you have welcomed me into your hearts, lives, meetings, and systems this year. It has been a joy to walk alongside you in this adventure we call ministry.

Rev. Meg Lacy