Joyful greetings to you! As we look to everything that has happened year, we do so with thankful hearts! Thanks be to God indeed that in the daily rhythms of our lives and shared ministry, God has provided – and continues – to provide everything needed.
We have experienced significant ministry transitions throughout 2017. Beloved family members have gone to be with our Lord, Our Preschool-Child Care Center reorganized, our youth went to Sky Ranch in Colorado and we had confirmations. Sunday after Sunday we have been fed by the living presence, Sacraments and Word of God as experienced in our worship services in English & Spanish. Just this past Sunday of October 29th we joyfully joined our global Lutheran family and the whole Christian church in celebrating 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation! As part of this joyful celebration we dedicated a celebratory plaque and renamed our Fellowship Hall as Martin Luther Fellowship Hall. This Sunday, November 5th, we will remember those whom God has called to their eternal home, with a meaningful worship service.
Thanks to the faithful work of our Calling Committee and Church Council, thanks to the work of our Southwestern Texas Synod, the process of calling a new pastor is fully engaged. We now have received from our Synod the Ministry Profile of Ellen Ruth Williams as potential suitable bilingual candidate to become the next pastor here at St. John’s/San Juan Lutheran Church. After interviews with the Calling Committee and also with the Church Council, Ellen was recommended to meet our congregation this past Sunday by being our guest preacher. Ellen is a “first time call” pastoral candidate filled with passion and compassion for bilingual-multicultural ministry!
Though each member of the congregation will be receiving an official letter via ‘snail mail’, we share via this newsletter that the next formal step in the process of calling a new pastor is to have a congregational meeting so that you as congregation will vote on this important matter. The date for this congregational meeting is November 19, 2017 following our English Worship Service. The letter will explain the process for the vote to take place. Please mark your calendars for worship and for this important meeting!
As we consider this Spirit-led decision of calling a new pastor, let us pray that many men and women may answer God’s call to become pastors. In our ELCA and across all denominations, the clergy shortage is very real. Especially for us Lutherans, when it comes to bilingual pastors, the shortage is really huge! We know parish pastors are retiring in record numbers; coupled with decreased seminary graduations and enrollments, there are not enough pastors for the number of open calls. In our own Southwestern Texas Synod about 56% of all congregations are currently served by half-time pastors. Jonathan Strandjord, ELCA Program Director for Seminaries states: “We are experiencing a retirement tsunami. It is here. We are in the middle of it. The clergy gap will continue to widen. In fact, the gap is wider than it has even been.”
In this year 2017 when we celebrate 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation, let us pray that God’s reforming and transforming word may continue to raise faithful pastors!