A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR J.C. AUSTIN: On the Road
Since Easter, I have largely been on the road (aside from Sundays!) for two major commitments that
I’d like to let you know about. In different ways, they both have an impact on the ministry we are doing right here in Bethlehem.
The first was the week right after Easter, when I went to Princeton Seminary for the annual Forum of the Institute of Youth Ministry. This was part of our Log College Project, which is the program we are part of to help innovate new, intergenerational models of youth ministry for the 21st century. It was
an exciting gathering, because this was the first time that the leaders of each church gathered as a “Community of Practice.”
One of the greatest benefits of this program is that we’re not doing it in isolation, but with a group of churches from across the country in a range of denominations, sizes, and contexts: everything from a thriving Methodist start-up church in Sacramento, CA to an historic Baptist church in the Black Church tradition in Brooklyn, NY. This was an opportunity to start learning about each other’s ideas, challenges, and opportunities, and to work together in learning about the larger issues in the church and general culture that are shaping youth ministry for the future.
I came back even more excited about our own work and the chance to be a part of this project! Our own team has one more set of tasks to do in prepping our ideas (which we will do this month) and then our Design Team will go to Princeton as a group at the end of June to refine our ideas and make plans to put them into action!
The second trip was just this past week, when I went to the Baltimore area to serve as a facilitator and mentor for the cohort in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s “Company of New Pastors” program for the Northeastern United States. I had been asked to serve in this capacity not long after my arrival in Bethlehem in late 2017. I was initially hesitant to accept, frankly, given all that was going on in the church at the time. But after being told it was only two, three-day retreats a year, I accepted, and I’m so glad I did!
As any good teacher will tell you, one of the best ways to learn is to teach interesting people. These pastors have come out of seminary at a very different time than I did, and even as I have something to offer as an experienced pastor, they bring a whole set of assumptions and insights about ministry that is very helpful to me and to us as a congregation.
So I’m coming back from both these experiences with new energy and new ideas about how we can continue to grow and flourish as a congregation of faithful followers of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem at this time. I look forward to seeing you Sunday and to what the future holds for us!
Grace and Peace,