This charge was given to the First Presbyterian Church of Plattsburgh by Henny Chapman on Sunday January 28th during the installation service for Rev. Tim Luoma. Henny is an elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Rouses Point and a member of the Commission on Ministry of the Presbytery. Her charge touches powerfully on the dynamics of the pastoral relationship with a church. They speak to the real challenges we face in being the Church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century! I believe they are a word we all need to hear. ~David
After three years of searching, your pastor nominating committee [PNC] has brought you the Rev. Dr. Timothy Luoma from Gallipolis, Ohio by the grace of God. You have listened and called this man to lead you. He has also listened and answered God's call. This is a partnership between you, the congregation, and Timothy. It is a sacred partnership that didn't just happen but rather was orchestrated by a loving God. Enter into this covenant with your new pastor with joy and love.
Your PNC has completed its hard work. But you are not off the hook.
First of all, I charge you, the congregation to PRAY!
Pray for Tim. There is nothing more important he needs than your prayers. The Apostle Paul prayed for his followers and they for him... so much so they wept when he left them for good. You called this man to be your minister. He is like you and me: not perfect, with problems and faults. He also gets tired, discouraged, lonely and overwhelmed, even though you may not see it. So pray for him, his wife Tracey and son Ethan as they adapt to the North Country and its people. While you are praying for him and his family, don't forget he needs his own space too. Honor his days off, vacation time, and study leave. He juggles many duties. Even God rested on the 7th day, blessed it and declared it holy! Do be patient and not offended if he doesn't answer your phone calls or emails right away. Be direct and clear in your communication, especially when there are differences. Be mindful of Tim's priorities. His first allegiance is to God, his second to Tracey and Ethan. Do respect the time he sets aside for his family. He needs time for himself and his family and they need their time with him. Give him the flexibility. Be open to change. Listen without interrupting. Thank him for what he does. Pray for this new partnership of ministry. Pray for yourselves. Be confident that the Holy Spirit is guiding you together as the shepherd leads his flock.
Secondly, I charge you to HAVE COURAGE!
Do not be afraid to try new ideas. He brings his gifts to you, so support him as you share your gifts. Have the courage to let him guide you using his expertise, skills and experience. You will not always agree, but overcome the fear with a mental attitude that is morally honest and realistic. Have courage to face whatever comes, together with the Lord Jesus at your side. As the AA and Al Anon prayer goes, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Third, I charge you to LOVE TIM AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
1 Peter 3:8 says, "You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds."
Love is contagious. It takes less muscles to smile than to frown and also produces less wrinkles! Be a spiritual community of love and also a community where care and compassion abound. In Galatians 6:2, the Apostle Paul instructs us to bear one another’s burdens or "share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord's command." And from 1 Corinthians 13:13, "There are three things that remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love."
Finally, I charge you to MAKE THIS A WONDERFUL ADVENTURE OF JOY, FAITH AND LOVE! The pastor and congregation are to share in this ministry and mission and compliment each other within God’s design. You don’t know where the journey will lead or what trials and tribulations may come up and they will. Learning how to live and work together is always filled with the unexpected and unimaginable.
This would be easy if we were without sin. A poem from Shel Silverstein’s "Light in the Attic" reads:
If we had hinges on our heads
There wouldn't be no sin
'Cause we could take the bad stuff out
And leave the good stuff in
You are all disciples. Ministry is the job of us all. Have the flexibility necessary for growth and change. This is your installation as well as Tim's. Serve in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, not only here in the sanctuary but outside in the world.
This is a tall order, but you can make it work! I have been to your website, seen the videos and photos, and attended the Christmas Tea and Bazaar. I even sat in on a session meeting as your Commission on Ministry Liaison. You have the vitality, talents, enthusiasm, and you are welcoming. Like the grain of a mustard seed, if nurtured, watered and cared for with love, it will grow into a large healthy plant and keep on giving. Do the same for Tim.
So... "Why Not?"