A very personal note from Pastor Marilyn…. Everyone, please read!
March 5, 2021
As the first Sunday of March approaches, it occurs to me that this month marks two very significant anniversaries for Imani MCC. I’d like to share some thoughts regarding each of them.
The first Sunday of March this year marks the 8th anniversary of my service as your Pastor. Some of us have journeyed together that entire time; some have become part of Imani since my arrival; and some discerned that it was their time to move on during my tenure here. I am grateful for each and every person and experience that has contributed to making the Divine assignment of serving this church the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.
This month of March also marks the 1-year anniversary of the suspension of our in-person worship necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ll be honest with you - we’ve weathered some storms and rough times together, but from my perspective as Imani’s pastor, this one takes the prize as the biggest challenge. I don’t think anything that we’ve experienced has had the potential to be a greater threat to the cohesiveness of our congregation.
Have you ever been in a situation unlike anything you’ve encountered before, such that you’ve had to come up with entirely new and different ways to fill your role in that situation? Of course many of you have, because of the pandemic and perhaps at other times in your life as well.
When we had to suspend in-person worship at the church, my first, and dominant, thought was to try to maintain some sense of “normalcy” and consistency. So I decided that I would go to our sanctuary every Sunday, just as I always have. I’d put on my robe (so you’d have the same visual image as usual) and, with Hope as my faithful help-mate behind the camera, I’d preach - with just the two of us in the building - I’d preach as if the church was full. I continue to do that, with additional help in front of and behind the camera, for which I am very grateful to Rev. Annie, Toddie and Charisse and Renee! I also continue to conduct Wednesday Bible study via Zoom - another effort to maintain consistency for what I thought would be a much shorter time than it has been.
I think I’ve done pretty well with those things. I know I’ve done my best to continue to fulfill those duties “as unto the Lord.” However, I’ve come to realize - more deeply than I realized before - that this new circumstance requires more than my faithfulness and consistency in doing what I’ve always done. It calls for me to rise to the challenge of doing something(s) different.
Our dual anniversaries this month present an opportune moment for me to acknowledge and apologize for what I see as a shortcoming in my response to our pandemic-driven current reality, thus far; and to offer you my pledge to correct it. By way of explanation - not excuse - anyone who knows me on a personal level at all knows that I am an extreme introvert. Introverts, generally, can find it difficult to reach out to people. And that certainly is an accurate description of me. It has been a source of great angst for me, at times, to know that many people consider it to be part of a pastor’s job to initiate one-on-one contact with congregants on a fairly regular basis - particularly when there has been no in-person contact at church for a while. I have always seen it as a weakness in my pastoral performance that I find it difficult to do that to an extent that (probably) only other introverts can relate to.
Before this pandemic, I simply lived with that disappointment in myself by keeping myself reminded that, “no one has all of the gifts;” that there are aspects of my work that I’m pretty good at and some where there’s lots of room for growth; and that’s probably true of, pretty much everyone. Now that we’ve been unable to meet in person for a whole year, that particular coping mechanism no longer works for me. Here’s my confession: I feel convicted about the fact that there are people who attended Imani with whom I’ve had no contact since we suspended worship at the church. I read your Facebook posts, “liking” and commenting sometimes, in an effort to touch bases; but there are many of you who I don’t see on there. I’ve had regular contact with the Board members and the folks who attend the Bible study on Zoom. There are those who have initiated contact with me through texts, mostly, and (thank God!) I’m good at being responsive when folks reach out to me. My great weakness is in initiating contact; which, unfortunately, has been a disappointment to some of you. Please believe me when I say I sincerely apologize for that.
But apologies aren’t always enough, are they? So I’m announcing my effort to grow, in the area of pastoral care. In the coming weeks, I pledge to call as many of you as we have telephone numbers for in our church records. I don’t know that I’ll have a lot to say, but I promise I’ll be wide open to listening and hearing anything you want to share with me. During these calls, I will also offer you the opportunity to meet me at the church, one-on-one or with your partner/spouse, or in a small group. There’s plenty of room there for social distancing. We can talk, catch up, pray, and/or I’ll serve Communion to any who want it (wearing my mask and using disposable single-serving Communion kits).
Some might wonder why I’m doing this now. There’s something else that anyone who knows me well knows about me. It takes a while, sometimes, but anything that I come to believe that God is leading me to do, I will do - no matter how difficult and no matter the cost. Confessing faults and weaknesses is not easy. That’s why most of us don’t do it often and rarely publicly. But I believe that God wants me to do this. It’s as simple as that. I hope you will accept this in the spirit in which it is meant.
Pastors are people, too, and we need you to give us the grace of being loved and accepted, with our flaws, as God works with us and grows us into better pastors than we were before. I have always loved you, Imani. My hope, my prayer, and my plan is to do a better job of showing it in ways that our pandemic-driven reality requires.
Happy Anniversary to Us!
Yours in Christ’s Service,