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Pastor's Notes

posted Nov 24, 2020, 1:39 PM by Mary Margaret Barnoff   [ updated Nov 24, 2020, 1:40 PM ]

As you know, the leadership groups of all three congregations have been discerning how best to move forward in light of the financial pressures and reduced attendance that all three congregations have been facing in recent years. As part of that discernment, the parish council recommended this fall that the Punxsutawney Area Lutheran Parish should be dissolved, and at congregation meetings on October 18, October 25, and November 1, each of the three congregations ratified that decision, and have begun looking at how it will shape their ministries and lives together in the future.

The dissolution of the parish is going to bring a lot of changes for all three congregations. Some of them we know and have already begun to plan for: changing worship times, a renewed shared ministry agreement between Mount Zion, Airport Road and First English, and other adjustments. There are other changes that have yet to be seen, and that we’ll have to continue to adapt to in the future. One of the biggest changes to come out of the dissolution of the parish agreement is that my call as pastor of the Punxsutawney Area Lutheran Parish will be ending when the parish dissolves. My last day as pastor of the Punxsutawney Area Lutheran Parish will be December 31, and my last Sunday will be Sunday, December 27.

This isn’t an unexpected thing: the portion of our budget for the salary and benefits for the pastor is one of the largest portions, and with the congregations no longer financially liable for the costs included with a full-time pastor, the financial pressures each congregation is facing will be somewhat reduced. As of the time of this writing, I’m not sure where my family and I will be going after December 31. We’ve been looking at a few different options, but at least right now, things are still up in the air. In the coming months, as we discern our future, I ask that you would hold us in prayer.

There are a lot of things that I want to say – far more than I have space for in this letter. The first, and most important, is to remember: the church is still the church whether it has a called pastor or not, and no matter whether it meets in the same building or is spread across three congregations and two counties, no matter what time or place it meets. The church is that group of believers gathered around God’s Word and sharing God’s love with the world, and God’s love and that call to share that love aren’t going to change, no matter what else happens.

The other thing that I most want to say is, thank you. Thank you for calling me to be a part of these congregations for the time we’ve been able to share, thank you for letting me be a part of this community, thank you for your prayers and your encouragement, for your support and care and love. It’s been a joy and a privilege to be your pastor these last two and a half years. You are all in my prayers, as individuals and as the three congregations of Mount Zion, First English, and Mount Zion.

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