The Beacon Messenger
Download a copy of our November Newsletter here
From the Pastor and Council President
The Future of Our Churches
“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7)
It is not a secret that churches, synagogues and fraternal organizations are in decline. Current members are aging and dying. The next generations do not value membership in organizations as previous generations did. We see this every week at Bethesda/East. Our members are aging, many can no longer attend so the pastor visits 22 people on a regular basis. Our attendance has decreased to about 35 people attending worship each week.
We have been living on a deficit budget for more than ten years. In about five years that reserve fund will be depleted. One of our sister congregations, St. Paul East Longmeadow, can no longer support a full time pastor. They are exploring sharing a pastor or merging with another congregation, First Church (UCC) East Longmeadow is one possibility, Bethesda/East would be another possibility. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:11)
Presently Bethesda/East is committed to beginning a Spanish-speaking ministry in Springfield. Carmen has one course to take and after a period of mentorship she will be eligible for ordination. We anticipate this sometime in the second half of 2020. In February 2020 the Synod will begin paying her a monthly stipend to begin building a Lutheran Spanish-speaking congregation.
Carmen will be the pastor of this new Spanish-speaking church. There is no plan to make Bethesda/East a Spanish-speaking church. However, at first the new church may worship with Bethesda/East and as they grow they will become a stand-alone church with Carmen as their pastor. Our warm welcome will be important as they grow. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:17)
The bell tower reduction and new roof are nearly complete. But this is a building that is 70 years old and there is always something else needing repair. Jay spends an enormous amount of time caring for the building. When Pastor Lauren retires, Jay will retire also. Presently we do not have any members who can take on this role. The pastor spends an enormous amount of time renting space to outside groups to off-set the deficit by about $36,000. Caring for a building is not a good use of any pastor’s time. Regardless of the extra work, if we had to hire people to perform these duties our funds would be depleted at a much greater rate than they are presently.
The building is much larger than we presently need. One possibility would be to sell the building and find a more appropriately sized building where we could be the tenant not the landlord and therefore not spend time managing the building. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29)
For the next year Bethesda/East is not going anywhere. But as we continue to decline we realize that we must be realistic and plan our future and not simply drift out of existence. We can close as a congregation and members find a new place to worship, or we can partner with another church.
The council has determined that 2020 will be a year of discernment weighing each option with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We have been discussing all these areas at each council meeting and will continue to do so in the coming year. We are not trying to withhold any information from anyone, we simply do not know what our future will look like until we continue to move into it. We simply, like each of you, do not know what the future will bring. Please keep in mind that the congregation is the decision-making body of the church, the council will bring all recommendations to the congregation. We will keep you up-to-date and make all decisions together. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:6)
One thing that is essential is healthy communication. As your elected leaders we will share whatever we know as we know it. If you hear something, and it causes you concern, rather than pass it along to others, please check it out with someone who can provide the correct, up-to-date information, the pastor or council members: Judy Johnson (President), Shirley Flanders (Vice-president), Marybeth Lewison (Secretary), Mary Hunter (Treasurer), Geoff Robbins, and Eleanor Sacheli.
We want to hear your fears, your concerns, and your ideas. Anyone is welcome to attend council and other meetings. They are always listed on the calendar and announced in worship. Turning against each other and blaming individuals is not only not helpful, it is hurtful and harmful. We still have opportunity to grow as we invite people to come and experience what we value so highly. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:13)
At the end of 2021 Pastor Lauren hopes to retire. There will be several options to consider. Bethesda/East could share Carmen with the Spanish-speaking church, we could call a new pastor, or we could share a pastor with another church such as St. Paul’s East Longmeadow.
Our financial stability is also connected to Make Way for Ducklings who provide us with $42,600/year. They do not know how much longer they will continue to operate. We have always known that if they close, we close; if we close, they close.
Lastly, and most importantly, the church is not a building, it is the people, the body of Christ. We do not exist for ourselves but for the sake of the world that God loves so dearly. Our primary intention should not be to keep our group together in this space for our own sake. Instead, we should be focused on the mission to which God has called us. We house four other churches and we provide important ministries in this building and in the city. These too will be affected by what happens to us in the future.
We can be sure that God will continue to bless us as we move forward, but undoubtedly things will change. The Church will go on into the future but individual churches will change or close as we move forward with the times. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)
In Christ’s name, Pastor Lauren & Judy Johnson, Council President
Bob Duffney for making a video of the roof being lifted onto the bell tower.
Mike Dufault changing the banners.
Joe, Jeff and Clark fixing our microphones and sound system.
Rene Bonneau collecting the pens every Sunday.
Coffee hour hosts: Jay Cleaveland, Pauline Duffney, Carol Haglund and Marybeth Lewison.
Change your clocks
Sunday November 3rd Daylight Savings Time ends. Please remember to turn your clocks back one hour.
All Saints Sunday November 3rd
On All Saints Sunday, November 3rd we remember our sisters and brothers who have died this past year, who now rest in God’s perpetual care. We will remember: Evelyn Nicoll, Barry Little, William Kinsey, Diane Housman, Carol Monte, Phyllis Neill and Dora Dimm. People are invited to name other people including those outside our churches. As each name is read, a bell will be rung.
Campaign Nonviolence Walk November 17th
The next walk for Campaign Nonviolence will be Sunday November 17th at 2:30pm beginning and ending at Blessed Sacrament Church 40 Waverly Street.
Interfaith Thanksgiving Event November 24th
The Interfaith Council of Western MA will host its annual thanksgiving event on Sunday, Nov. 24th from 3-5pm in the Dodge Room, in the Campus Union building, at Springfield College. From 3-4pm there will be representatives from different traditions expressing how they give thanks in their tradition. Each tradition will be offering scripture, prayers and possible chants or songs expressing gratitude according to their practices plus some interpretation or narrative.
Following light refreshments we will shift to round tables for discussion. Everyone will be encouraged to sit with people from other traditions. Springfield College students will have questions to start the conversations. There will be child care and children’s activities during the event. Translation into Spanish will be provided.
What we just completed
Crop Walk $665
|What we are doing now|
|Thanksgiving bags November 3rd – November 24th|
What is coming next
Advent Folders December 1st
Annual Greater Springfield CROP Hunger Walk October 20th
Ending hunger one step at a time by helping our neighbors at home and around the world.
Becky Lewison raised $665!!!
It is the time of the year to think about Thanksgiving meals for those without adequate food. Bags with the list of needed non-perishable food items will be given out on November 3rd. They are to be returned by November 24th so that they can be delivered in time for Thanksgiving. The need is great this year so your help is greatly appreciated.
Advent Folders will be available on December 1st. Following Jesus’ example to serve others we are pleased to provide a folder that contains a slot for each day of the Advent Season to hold your daily offering. You may either place a coin in each day or make one contribution at the end of the season.
Hat & Mitten Tree
Beginning on December 1st please bring hats, gloves/mittens & scarves for adults. Hang them on the Christmas tree in the church lobby.
Bishop Hazelwood has just completed a book, “Everyday Spirituality” which is designed for group conversation reflecting on where God is in our ordinary lives. The pastor is willing to meet any time (breakfast, morning, lunch, afternoon, dinner, and evening) on any day of the week, at church or any other location (homes, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.). Please speak with the pastor if you are interested.
Save the Date Christmas Get Together
You are invited to attend the 55+ group’s Christmas Get Together on Friday December 6th at 6 p.m. at Figaro’s Restaurant in Enfield, CT. We will order off the menu and have separate checks.
July August 2018
July & August 2019