After a year of conversations between pastors and leaders of the ten congregations of the Western Nassau Conference, over 65 people came together for their first “Vision Day” at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in New Hyde Park on Saturday, November 15. The event was initiated by a special conference steering committee and planned by a leadership team including pastors Fred McElderry, Kim Lile, Kim Wilson, and Synod Consultant, Pastor Richard Hill. It was the culmination of several months of discussions among the pastors and lay leaders of the Western Nassau Conference who are taking part in a pilot project initiated by the Gathered Committee of the Metro New York Synod’s Strategic Planning process.
At the event leaders spent their time together identifying their needs and opportunities as congregations so they can plan for the future. After several preliminary meetings, this event marked the first formal effort to bring leaders together around the topic, “Creating Our Shared Future Together.”
Leaders viewed a PowerPoint presentation where Pastor Hill presented them with several “scenarios” for creating shared ministries with one another and then they formed groups organized into three “clusters,” based on their location in the conference.
Although the challenges faced by each cluster group are quite different, in each cluster group participants introduced their congregations, described some of the valuable strengths of their churches, and discussed ideas about how they could share ministry. Finally, the entire group me to summarize their discussions and share future steps they would take.
This event was needed because in recent years, worship attendance and giving levels have declined in most of the churches. As a result they can no longer afford to have a full-time pastor serving each church.
“We’re on the way to a better future,” Dean Wilson said. “We face some great challenges, but we also have some wonderful opportunities for sharing in ministry.”
“In a way, they’ve just begun a long journey they will share together,” said Pastor Hill. “There is no ‘they’ out there who will come in to tell them the best course to take. They will create their future together.” In coming months they will continue to expand their conversations by forming small teams in each of the three clusters to bring leaders together for more extended planning discussions.
Pastor Hill’s role as consultant is the result of more than a decade of personal involvement in encouraging the development of shared ministry in the Synod. On his recent three-month long sabbatical he visited with dozens of ministry teams in Anglican churches in the U.K. and in Lutheran and Episcopalian churches across the U.S. He has given presentations at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and to pastors and lay leaders in five conferences and maintains a website at www.totalministry.net. He is Dean of the Peconic Conference and has served as pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Selden since 1982.
Western Nassau Conference Vision Day 2014.
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