“To be present to something is to allow the moment, the person, the idea, or the situation to change you.” —Richard Rohr
Warm autumn greetings, dear friend,
A year ago Newfane Church made me the happiest minister this side of glory by calling me to serve as its next settled pastor. I get awfully reflective on such milestones.
Since stepping into this role, I’ve been humbled and amazed more times than I can recount by the depth of love and care that emanates from this congregation. As I look back, I have so much gratitude for the great work and care-filled mentorship of my pre- decessor, the Rev. Rob Hamm, in helping me to orient to this new role, to say nothing of the many ways his spiritual gifts and leadership helped create the conditions for the church to thrive under a new pastor.
This gratitude extends also to the incredible participation and rich imagination of the faithful members of this community. Thanks to the faithful visioning work undertak- en prior to the pandemic, as well as to the enthusiastic interest of open and engaged congregants, I began my pastorate with a far clearer sense of direction and purpose than most of my peers beginning their pastoral career. One of the possibilities identified in this visioning work was the idea of hosting an informative series of speakers with specialized knowledge to share with the community.
To that end, in January, we launched a new program called “Courageous Conversa- tions,” a series of public conversations. Through this series we seek to create a regular space in which to engage folks in the area on a range of pertinent questions facing our country and community. With each talk, we’ve been tackling a different topic in the hope of creating opportunities to face hard, uncomfortable, high-stakes questions, to- gether, in healthy, generative ways that stoke our curiosity, illumine our perspectives, and make space for real difference.
Another possibility that emerged from the visioning work was the idea of opening our sanctuary to members of the community seeking a quiet, contemplative space to rest from the many cares that weigh on them in their day-to-day lives. So as of April, on the third Wednesday of the month, from 5:30 to 7:00pm, our beautiful sanctuary be- comes Open Sanctuary, a space in which folks can give their minds and bodies a rest and connect with spirit, whatever that means to them. We have also restarted a regular Bible study, falling on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
In May, on Pentecost Sunday, God added to our number seven marvelous new members, friends who said “yes” to joining our church officially that day. At a time when so many have given up on this perpetually disruptive experiment called church—and not without good reason!—our fellowship has been deeply enriched by these new members, as well as by other friends who’ve been visiting us regularly since.
More recently, we launched a new experiment we’re calling Agape Sundays to deep- en our practice of holy communion. On these Sundays, our service takes place in the Fellowship Hall and centers around a shared meal with one another. I cannot begin to relate the depth of my joy at hearing how profoundly the first Agape service touched so many of you.
I will never be able to express the fullness of my gratitude for the attentive and gen- erous ways I’ve been supported and resourced by so many folks since joining as pastor of this church. I cannot imagine a more nourishing ecosystem of help and support than I have found in this wonder-working church.
In abundance, Matthew Deen