A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: CELEBRATING SUE BENNETCH
As we previously announced, this Sunday, October 3, is Sue Bennetch’s last day as our Pastoral Associate for Congregational Care.
Sue is beginning her very well-earned retirement after that, so this Sunday will be one of great celebration and thanksgiving for Sue and for the powerful ministry of care that she has exercised here at First Pres.
Please make every effort to be a part of that celebration that will take place after the 11:15 a.m. worship service (at approximately 12:30 p.m., outside in front of the church building); there will be refreshments, a short program to recognize Sue, and then opportunities to say your personal thanks and well wishes to her.
Remember that we are collecting a retirement gift for her from the congregation, so if you have not yet sent your gift to Sue in to the Church Office, please do so immediately. You can make a gift of any amount by sending in a check or making an electronic gift using the online giving portal (fpc-bethlehem.org/give); in either case, please be sure to indicate “Bennetch gift” in the memo line (or notes box, if online) so that your gift is directed appropriately.
Let me also take this opportunity to answer a few questions related to Sue’s transition out of this position and how the church will be adjusting to that.
Q1: Will Sue still be able to participate in the life of the church?
Yes! In the Presbyterian Church, retired pastors are expected to maintain appropriate boundaries from their ministry once they are retired, but the current pastor can invite them to participate to whatever extent she or he sees fit. I have already invited Sue to continue making First Pres her church home, as I did with Keith Brown, so she will be welcome to participate in the life of the church as much as she wants.
Q2: Will Sue be available to conduct weddings, funerals, etc.?
The Presbyterian Church’s constitution is explicit that retired pastors may not provide pastoral services to members of their former congregations without invitation from the Moderator of Session, and First Pres requires that a current pastor of the church officiate all worship services, including weddings and funerals.
Furthermore, the point of retirement is to retire, so we want to respect Sue’s desire to step back from the demands of pastoral ministry. That said, if you feel strongly about Sue participating in such a service, you can let me know and we will check with her on whether she’s available to play a role (reading Scripture, offering prayers, etc.) and invite to her to participate if she is.
Q3: How will we organize pastoral care going forward?
The Session is looking for an Interim Pastoral Associate who can take up the position that Sue held, while they consider what the best pastoral staffing configuration will look like going forward. We have already begun reaching out to solicit names for potential candidates in the area.
In the meantime, you can always contact either myself or Lindsey at any time with pastoral concerns. If it is an urgent situation, the fastest way to reach us is by calling the church answering service at 610-778-7003; they will notify whichever of us is on call and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
For less time-sensitive concerns, you can always send us an email to me or Lindsey. Once the Session has found our Interim Pastoral Associate, we will announce that, as well as long-term plans for pastoral care as those unfold.
Again, I hope to see you at Sue’s retirement celebration on Sunday, and please keep her in your prayers, as she has kept so many of us in hers for so long, as she transitions into this new chapter of her life.
Grace and Peace,