Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Letter To Meridian Street UMC

Words cannot express the excitement that Nancy and I feel about my being appointed pastor of Meridian Street United Methodist Church.  What makes this appointment even more exciting is that we get the opportunity to build on the wonderful things that have been accomplished under the leadership of Pastor Anne.

As word of the appointment has spread we have been shocked to learn of all the many connections that we already have with Meridian Street.  One of my best friends from my youth group had grandparents that were members and he told me about worshipping with you every Christmas and Easter as a child.  One of my first friends in ministry, Paul Newman Jacobs, grew up at Meridian Street.  Another friend is friends with one of the music leaders.  I have come to see what a small world it is.

Nancy and I look forward to getting to know each of you and learning more about the mission and vision of the Church.  We love the things that we see on the web and the stories we have been told.

As many of you know, last May, I "retired" from parish ministry.  I knew it was time for me to leave Ridge Church (I was pastor for 17 years), but if the truth be told, I was not yet ready to leave Munster.  I have been extremely active in the local community, and had come to be seen as a leader for the larger community.  I was clearly still in ministry, but just not at a local church.  On December 23rd I wrote Bishop Coyner asking that I be considered for an appointment in 2016.  This is the bulk of the letter I sent the Bishop.

As the Advent Season began, I have been continually kicked in the rear reminding me of my call to parish ministry.

When I left Ridge Church earlier this year, I said I would not preach for at least a year.  I made it five months until the church that I grew up in invited me to return and preach there.  It was the first time I had been invited to preach at the Glenview United Methodist Church.  As the day drew closer I had a sense of dread --- it wasn’t that I was uncomfortable preaching, it was that I would find it too comfortable.  That morning, almost 20 people from my youth group days returned for Sunday worship.  Some traveled long distances and had not graced a church in a long time.  As I reflected on that morning I realized that preaching is one of the main gifts that God has blessed me with.  

Shortly after that I was asked by a neighboring church (Presbyterian) to teach an adult Sunday school class for two weeks around Thanksgiving.  God reminded me again that teaching is another gift that God has gifted me with.  Following the second week, the pastor of the church asked if I would fill in while he was on vacation (his staff requested that he ask me).  I politely declined, but while saying NO I realized that this is what I am supposed to be doing.

I have loved my time away.  I have learned many new skills and have challenged myself in ways I never imagined.  I have experienced things that I never could have done in the local church.  But at the end of the day, I realize that my calling is to be a local church pastor.

I have come to realize that I needed time to process my grief of leaving the community. These past few months have allowed me to do that. The exciting thing is I will be coming to you with a renewed sense of my calling. God swiftly and regularly kicked me in the rear to remind me what I was called to do. What has been most interesting to me since the announcement was made was the response from my friends and former congregations. They too have affirmed that being a pastor is what God has called me to do. I look forward to learning more from the staff and from you about the ministries that God has called Meridian Street to participate in.

Please keep Nancy and me in your prayers as we prepare to sell our home in Munster and begin looking for a new home in Indianapolis. We will keep Meridian Street and Pastor Anne in our prayers as you go through this transition. May God guide each of us and call us to faithful ministry.

In Christ,
Steve & Nancy Conger

Sunday, January 10, 2016

An Empty House

I have been slower writing than I would like.  I started a post last week, but have yet to finish it yet.  I will shoot for getting it up on Wednesday.  I have been hesitant to write on what seem to be political things, but it just keeps nagging at me.

It was a tough week.  As I shared earlier, Lindsey's leaving was hard!  But boy I wasn't ready for how difficult it would be to put Haley on the plane back to Chile.  She left Thursday and arrived back in Chile on Friday morning, but as I pulled away from the curb at O'Hare I realized just how different things really are.

I think I have been fooling myself about Haley's plan for staying in Chile.  She would always tell us that she planned to stay a year or two, but I am starting to think that a year or two is going to be a lot more than I anticipated.  As we talked on the way to the airport she shared about how she had received her work visa and would pick it up on Friday when she arrived back.  And as we continued talking I asked how long it was good for (one year) and she said that after two years she would be eligible to apply for permanent status (WHAT??)  I was not ready to hear that.  Seeing Haley and Lindsey just a couple of times a year is not what I was anticipating.  But, I remember when I moved away to Durham to head to Duke, I am sure it seemed like I was moving to LA or Chile to them.

I think what really sunk in, was the realization that neither Lindsey nor Haley will probably ever be in the house that they grew up in.  For both of them, this is really the only place that they have ever known as their "family" home.  But Nancy and I have made the decision that we will move sometime before summer.  Where, we don't know.  Sharing that in my last post got a few people asking lots of questions, but the truth is, we don't have answers.  We are trying hard to be patient and see where we are led.  And we know that it is going to all work out for the best.  But that said, it made me very sad realizing that they would not be here to say goodbye to this home and quite possibly to Munster.  Yep, life marches on.

One of the things I have realized is Nancy and I just need to figure out ways to visit them more often . . .  Oh if it were just that easy.  We feel torn between our children and our parents as we try to find the time to see them all and spend whatever time we have left in this life with those that we love.  But our trip to New Zealand, while it was amazing, and the beauty of the place left us speechless; what made the trip so special was that we got to do it with Haley!  What a blessing and gift that was!

Last night, despite the early snow in Munster, made the trek to Sand Creek CC to attend the Valparaiso Chamber's annual event where they honor community leaders.  It was great to be there to be able to celebrate the honoring of Sharon Kish who recently retired from Porter County United Way.  She is everything that is right with United Way.  During the flood she and I worked closely together on LARRI and if it wasn't for her leadership my distaste for United Way would be greater. 

Ten days into the New Year, and I am doing well on my resolutions.  I work hard every day to be a good husband; I am up to date in my plan to read through the Bible in one year (I am using Bible Gateway).  They have a great plan and even send the readings to you every day.  I continue reading Train Your Brain; however I am behind on the videos.  I will work on catching up on the videos before the end of the month.  My 1000 challenge is right on track.  Actually I am ahead of my plan.  As long as I don't get injured I think 1000 miles is in sight.  The big think for me is I need a goal to keep me motivated, so I hope to choose a half-marathon for April or May to run in.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year!

Farewell to 2015 and welcome to new adventures and opportunities in the coming year.  2015 was a year of great change for Nancy and me.  We worked hard this year to strengthen our partnership, and I look forward to that continued growth in the coming year.  I think we both saw the great gift we both have been given, and by looking inward we can better (together) make a difference in the world.

It also was a year of change for both of us professionally.  Nancy's job at the School Town of Munster after 16+ years was phased out.  We both should have seen it coming, but sometimes when you are in the forest one has a hard time seeing the individual trees.  I know that this was a devastating blow to her, as she loved working in the schools and it really is where her call is.

I too made a major change in my life.  I decided to take a time out from pastoral ministry this past year.

This past year has been one of trying new things, sometimes being very successful and sometimes not.  When I look at what my staff and I have done at TradeWinds I am extremely proud.  We invested ourselves in the right way for the future of the organization, by taking the time to lay the groundwork for the future.  Unfortunately, the base had been neglected for a long time.  For the average person looking in, the would not see the value, but for the person who sits in my chair in the future, they will be able to say Thank You.

Doing marketing and fundraising has really pushed my comfort zones, which, while uncomfortable at times, I am thankful for.  It has not just expanded my comfort zone, but it has also made it healthier.

This year has also given me new eyes on leadership styles.  When you are THE leader it is hard to sometimes evaluate styles of leadership because everyone has to, somewhat, conform to you.  Not being the leader of a company, but having leadership over a section of that company has forced me to examine how the other Directors and the CEO lead and how I interact with them.  This has been invaluable for me and will produce great benefits as I lead my team in the future.

While 2015 was a year of change, I already see that 2016 will compete with it in terms of the amount of change in our lives.  Nancy and I will move this year.  Where, I don't know.  But we both know that it is time. 

I am filled with excitement about all the change that is coming.  I know that great things are down the road.  I am excited to be able to say that I can see farther than I can see on this first day of 2016.  Stay tuned and lets see what happens!

My resolutions
1.       Be a better husband/partner/father
2.       Read through the Bible in one year
3.       Work through: Train Your Brain
4.       Blog at least twice a week
5.       Run 1000 miles (that averages to about 20 miles per week)