Transition Information

As of Sunday Sept. 9, 2018, several members from Bethany have gone to Seward to hear Pastor Hahn and Deacon Collins each lead a service.  Council has interviewed them both with Synod Rep. Pastor Ken Simurro present. 

Sunday Sept. 30th is the date when Pastor Hahn will lead a service for us here at Bethany.   A "MEET AND GREET"  congregational covered dish luncheon will follow immediately, where we can all talk to both Pastor Hahn and Deacon Tom Collins one-on-one. 

Oct. 7 - Deacon Tom Collins will lead the service - Bethany's first chance to hear him preach
Oct 14 - abbreviated worship service followed by a Congregational Meeting to discuss issuing a 1-year "call" to Pastor Hahn and Deacon Collins
At the Oct. 14, 2018 Congregational Meeting:  Presiden Chris Cornwell opened the meeting by leading the unison reading of the Transition Prayer.  Next, a Constitutional Amendment to include the sentence "The Lay President will chair the business of the Church Council and Congregation during all meetings." was unanimously passed.  Next, there was a long discussion about the ramifications of accepting the contract to fulfill the Proposal [see below].  This discussion included concerns about the time of Bethany's worship service, general styles of worship, what happens if we don't agree to this contract, Synod's roll in moving us forward, and the impact on Bethaby's budget.  Pastor Ken Simurro joined us at 12:30 to clarify some matters that had been brought up by members of the Congregation.  Ultimately, a motion was made, seconded, and passed that the vote for/against the contract be postponed until several more questions have been answered by Pastor Hahn and Deacon Collins.

At a special Congregational Meeting after worship on Aug. 5, the members present voted to explore a proposal received from Zion St. John in Seward pending a contract from Synod.  The full text of the proposal is as follows:
"Proposal for Zion St. John and Bethany: Two sister congragations - One mission
Given Bethany's need of 25-30 hours/week and Zion St. John's standing MIT arrangement, Tom Collins and Rahel Hahn would like to propose the following:

20 hours/week - Rahel Hanh (call)
10 hours/week - Tom Collins (lay contract)
Zion St. John - continue with MIT team (Tom Collins and Rahel Hahn)
This arrangement would initially be limited to one year.  Depending on the developments in that year, it could be renewed.

Rahel Hahn (ordained) and Tom Collins (lay) would function as a team to serve both Bethany and Zion St. John.  The relationshop between the two congregations would hopefully develop over time as they experience and support one another as sister congregations in their respective ministiries and also in their needs.  It may even led to some joint ministries.  However, there is no intent or plan to combine these two congregations organizationally.  We will not focus on bringing the congregations organizationally together but would expect that they support each other as much as possible, especially in their outreach ministries.  They share in one mission, namely God's mission.  What form that will take in each setting will be a process in which many can participate, regardless of membership affiliation.

As outlined above, the time at Bethany would be distributed between Tom Collins and Rahel Hahn.  This arrangement would be good for several reasons, especially given the 42-year-tenure and a more clergy-centered leadership of the last pastor (solo, male).  First, the comgregation would have not a solo pastor but two points of contact.  Second, there would be both female and male leadership.  Third, during this time of transition opportunity, the congregation could explore ways of seeing and doing ministry not bound to a solo pastor but rather opening up a team-perspective, including both an ordained and a lay person.  At the same time, the presence of an experienced ordained minister will provide some continuity without forming unhealthy expectations based on the simple comparison of individuals.

Pastor Hahn's call would have more hours (incl. weddings, funeral, baptism preparations, etc). and by having more that 15 hours a week, she could be "called" and thus get off the On Leave from Call status.  At the same time, by having Tom Collins involved as part of the team, the teaching and establishing of lay-centered ministries would come with a constant practical reminder and the opportunity to try out and develop ways "we have never done before."  Lay-centered ministries would include, but not be limited to, the building of pastoral care teams, understood as intentional communal practice.

Every effort will be made to emphasize that Bethany and Zion St. John are two bodies with one mission, cooperating as two equal sister congregations, working side by side in God's misson.  Concrete expressions of this emphasis would, for example, include the celebrating of our joys together and the grieving of our sorrows together.  To do so, we would obviously need to get to know one another without giving up our distinct identies and self-understanding.  Mutual support, contributing to and sharing in each other's outreach and ministries may help here.  Ror example, the food collection at Zion St. John could benefit Bethany's food pantry, and people could attend fellowship events at Bethany.  People from Bethany could in turn support outreach in Seward, by carolling together or enjoying a Harvest Dinner.

This type of model could assist in putting into place, in an uncomplicated and free-flowing way, the development and mutual support of two congregations for the sake of mission, a development and focus very much needed in the Foothills Conference.

The minimum driving distance between the two congregations is approximately half an hour one way.  We therefore propose tat both congregations change their worship times a little for important practical reasons.

Seward could start at 8:30 am.  This change would also give the organist more time to make her trip to Richmondville for service in a timely manner.  This change would further ensure that the worship leader does not have to leave in a hurry after worship but has some time so that there can be that valuable informal check-in.  (To have to run off would inadvertently signal that the congregation is less important, the step-child, etc. - all impressions that work to the detriment of being in God's mission together).  The worship at Bethany could start at 11am to give Tom Colloins/Rahel Hahn enough time to travel from Seward and to get ready for worship (e.g. getting dressed, praying with worship leaders before worship, checking worship set-up).

While the change of worship time is a big deal in most congregations, we think it could work at Bethany at a time when so many things will be explored and visited anew.  Similarly, just as Zion St. John went from weekly communion to communion every other week with the arrival of the MIT team, the communion schedule at Bethany might also need to get modified.

Given the part-time nature of the siutation, neither Rahel Hahn nor Tom Collins would want to be "on" full time, that is, on every Sunday.  If the worship times are adjusted, each of them can cover two services on a given Sunday and both have two Sundays {off} when it is the other person's turn.  [There is of course the occasional fifth Sunday in some months, which would be covered by rotation, and "extraordinary pastoral acts" such as weddings and funerals, which are the pastor's responsibilty.]  Other special worship services led by laity could be added as outreach opportunities.

We believe there is a time to grieve and there is a time for God-given opportunities to be explored.  These do not exclude one another.  Some things will work and will be brought forward, others not so much.  Learning the difference as we journey together will be one of the many gifts of God that are there waiting to be unwrapped in this new constellation."