Saturday, February 6, 2010

New England Update

Many of you have probably already heard that our trip to MA went really well, but I wanted to give everybody a rundown of our trip and let you know what the status of everything is at the moment.

As we waited to board the plane Friday afternoon I was worried that our trip might get off to a late start when it started to snow in Charlotte. As most of you know we southerners are not well equipped to deal with snow (in other words, we freak out when it snows). But after a relatively short delay to get de-iced we were off to Boston.

We arrived in Boston to lovely 15 degree, windy weather. Bill, the senior pastor of 2nd Congregational, picked us up at the airport and drove us about an hour back to Douglas, where we met his wife Michelle and their four kids: Emily, Bob, Caroline and Abigail. We stayed with them for the weekend and had a lot of fun getting to know them.

Saturday morning we ventured out in the 3 degree cold to meet with the elders and deacons across the street at the church. We went through a few basic interview questions again but mostly tried to get to know each other and to get a sense of whether we'd be a good fit. They seemed to be a really great group of guys with a really strong sense of community and we liked them a lot. They really liked Kerstin and didn't seem to mind me either. Overall everybody seemed to think that we would be a great fit there and that we'd really enjoy being a part of the church. After the meeting Bill sent us to have lunch with one of the elders who wasn't on my earlier phone interviews and is the most theologically knowledgeable member of the leadership. We had a great time getting to know him and his family (who are actually from South Africa) and we had homemade applesauce for the first time -it was awesome. Who knew it didn't always come in a jar?! Bill said it was really important that this elder liked us and it looks like he did. We also took a little driving tour through Worcester, MA (pronounced Wuss-ter) which is a city of about 300,000 people with literally not a single church that preaches the gospel. After heading back to Bill's place and resting for a while we went out to dinner with Bill and Michelle and discovered that we really have a lot in common.

Sunday morning we headed across the street for Sunday School where we met a few church members and saw a real hunger to learn and grow spiritually. In the service I preached on Exodus 3-4 where God calls Moses to go free Israel from slavery in Egypt and talked about what it means to have a calling from God. It seemed to go pretty well and Bill said he got lots of good feedback (you can hear it here if you like). After church there was a potluck for lunch and we got to meet a bunch of people including the former Assistant Pastor who's now the head pastor of a church a few towns over. We really liked the people of the church and had lots of fun getting to know them. In the afternoon Bill drove us around the area, which is really beautiful, and we saw people ice fishing and playing hockey on a frozen lake. Kerstin was feeling very nostalgic of her childhood winters in Michigan, and plans on getting some cross country skis when we move. We also visited Purgatory and got Fribbles. Sunday night we hung out with some church members around our age and, again, really liked everybody and felt like we'd be a great fit for the church.

Monday we headed back to Boston to catch our flight back. We left a little late so we walked up to the gate just in time to board, which made us a little nervous but on the bright side we know that you can get to Boston in less than an hour if you're really trying.

So that was our trip. Overall we really liked Bill and the elders and deacons and the congregation in general. We think we'd be a good fit there and that I'd learn a lot from Bill and get lots of great experience. Bill said he thought it went really well and that everybody he talked to felt really good about us. He thought we would be a perfect fit for the church and didn't see any problems or any reason why the church wouldn't vote to call me. They vote at the congregational meeting on the 17th and will either vote to call me (aka offer me the job) or not. If they do they'll have to approve the job description and salary package that Bill will propose.

My job description will basically be to do everything that Bill does over at least two years. It would really prepare me to move on and plant a church or revitalize a church in the area, which is what Bill and the elders hope to see me do.

Salary is where things will get difficult and where I'd ask everybody to pray. Housing and insurance are both really expensive in MA. What this basically means is that there's going to be a pretty big difference between what the church can actually pay me and what we'll need to live there. Our plan is to raise the difference, which will probably be somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand per year. Obviously, this is a lot of money to raise in the current economy.

So here are our prayer requests for the moment:
  1. Please pray that the vote goes as everybody expects it to and that the church calls me as their Associate Pastor.
  2. Please pray that Kerstin's pregnancy continues to go well and that Ruth Elling arrives and is healthy in 7 weeks.
  3. Pray that God will provide the money we will need to raise quickly so that we can get started ministering in MA.

Thank you all so much for praying!

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