The Pastor’s Message: Facing Scary-Exciting Times

The first phase of the Vital Church Initiative is winding down and on June 25, our Coffee Hour will include a presentation from the VCI team on our work thus far, including some information from our retreat last month.

As we transition to the second phase, and begin to implement changes around the church so that we might better serve Christ in our community, it will be a scary-exciting time.

Now, you June not be familiar with the term, “scary-exciting,” but I’m sure that most of you are acquainted with the circumstance of being scared and excited at the same time by the same thing. Starting new jobs, becoming parents, entering new relationships are some of the other times that we can find scary-exciting – Scary, because we might not be up to the challenge and because we might fail; Exciting, because we see tremendous hope in the journey we are beginning.

In June of 1990, following four years of study, I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary with my Master of Divinity. One month later, after five years as a candidate for ministry, Bishop Judith Craig ordained me as a Deacon in the Detroit Annual Conference.

Within a few weeks, almost ten years after I first recognized God calling me into ministry, I was received as pastor of the Linden and Argentine United Methodist Churches – my first appointment. I’m sure you can understand how exciting these months were.

Long-held dreams were coming true and long courses of preparation were being completed. I was meeting new friends, finding mentors, and being given opportunities to lead in ways for which I had been training for years. But at times I wondered if I was up to the task.

On my first night in the parsonage, I received a phone call that the key lay leader of one of my congregations had been killed in a car accident. In an instant, that congregation lost its Administrative Council Chair, Pastor-Parish Relations Chair, and Church Treasurer, and I would meet her family at her home before I would preach my first sermon.

On my first Sunday, I almost dropped the communion bread because an intensifying neuropathy was taking the strength and feeling from my arms and hands.

Most of all, over the next few months, I would realize the challenges that face a twenty-something year old pastor, serving congregations of folks who had been part of their churches for more than twice as long as I had been alive. They were scary-exciting times.

Make no mistake, reversing more than 40 years of declining worship attendance will not be easy. We are going to need to learn new ways of relating to our community, each other, and to God. We are going to have to put our resources of money, time, and spirit at risk. We presence through our church. We are striving to follow where Christ leads. We are striving to could lose our church. That is scary!

But we are striving to embody a vision that reveals God’s be God’s faithful people, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! That means people hungry in body and spirit will be fed, that a community deep in cynicism and anger will be invited to share in hope and reconciliation, that connections with the larger church that have been lost to alienation will be strengthened. That is exciting!

Scary? Sure. But even more exciting! And the great thing is that we will be held in God’s hand regardless as we work to be a vital church, doing God’s work in our community, and working with others, around the world.


Pastor Carter