Last week, I attended a gathering in Atlanta of about 30 PC(USA) senior pastors from across the country, facilitated by the Presbyterian Foundation. The point was to gather pastors who fit into either the Gen X or Millennial age groupings, and whose congregations are doing particularly creative or innovative work, so we could learn from and support one another. I knew about a third of the attendees pretty well, and had at least heard of another third, and then there was a whole group I knew nothing about, so I expected it to be both a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance to make new connections that would be beneficial to our work going forward.

It was all of those things, but it was also interesting to be Rev JC Austinreminded that what we are doing here with our strategic mission work through adaptive reuse of buildings and new campus development is both known and being followed in the larger denomination as a national model.

So many congregations of every conceivable denomination and theological persuasion are struggling with the very questions that we have been working on: how to turn property that is underutilized in terms of congregational mission and impact and overwhelming in terms of financial burdens into something that is not simply financially sustainable, but missionally impactful on a scale befitting the opportunity and resources at hand.

I wish you all could have been there to see and hear the excitement of so many pastors about what we are exploring and the affirmation that this is such good and faithful and even courageous work to be doing. “If y’all can pull this off,” one of them said to me, “you’re not just doing something good for yourselves, or for Bethlehem, or for the denomination. You’re helping change the story about what Christians really care about, and for most people out there, that’s not a good story right now.”

We have a long journey still ahead of us, with more than a few curves and hills and obstacles, and perhaps even a dead end or two to deal with. But that is to be expected on any great journey, and I am so proud and grateful for how willing this congregation has been to take the steps we have to explore it. I, and our friends in the PC(USA) across the country, are very excited to see where this all leads us!

Grace and Peace,