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.
Steve & Nancy Conger