Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Search for Common Ground



    Some time ago, long before I came to Trinity, our children’s Sunday school teachers complained that they only had fifteen or twenty minutes for class.  This shortness of time grew out of a decision made years ago to have the children’s Sunday school during the second worship service.  This arrangement also caused our adult and children’s Sunday school programs to be at different times, which in turn, makes it difficult for both worship services to attract young families.

    A few months ago, a group of Sunday school teachers met to discuss the problem and consider various scheduling options.  After they had selected one that they thought to be the best, they took that suggestion to the Church Council.  After considerable discussion, the Council felt that another option would be better, but that option would not allow the second worship service to meet on Sunday morning. 

    It is at this point that I stepped in and caused a fair amount of confusion.  The Church Council voted on, and narrowly passed, a schedule that did not include a second worship service but did allow all of our Sunday school classes to meet at the same time.  Before we dismissed that meeting I explained that before we could move forward with such a plan, those who worship in the second service should be consulted.  It took me a few days to understand what had happened, what should have happened, and the mistake that I should have prevented.

    Regardless of our feelings, our church does indeed have two worship services.  Despite the obvious fact that one service is significantly larger, more involved, and more affluent than the other, it would be unfair for any one group to simply vote to take away the worship time of the other.  It isn’t hard to see how the situation might be reversed in only a few years.  Allowing the Council to vote on such a resolution was a mistake, I regret it, and I apologize.  Despite the fact that there has been a majority vote, I am insisting that a majority isn’t enough.  Fairness, I think, requires that we reach a consensus, which means, simply, that we need to find a schedule that works for everyone.

    I have had several families confide to me, at one time or another, that each of the proposals that have been lifted up would cause someone to feel as if they had to leave the church.  This is exactly why a majority is not enough.  If a vote of this kind passes by two thirds, and one third of the church leaves, we’re finished.  This is too important for a majority vote.  What we need is a consensus, an agreement between all of us.  At a minimum, I would like eighty or ninety percent of us to agree but honestly, what I want is 100 percent, and I think that we can get there.

    I knew from the beginning that I would find myself caught in the middle because I am the pastor of both worship services.  I represent all of you.  I had hoped that finding common ground would be easier.  In all of our discussions so far, there have been strong opinions and some heated discussions.  Even so, I have been encouraged.   Despite the strong opinions and lengthy discussion, there has been both give and take and in the end, we have made progress.  The final proposals being discussed differed by only ten to fifteen minutes.  I believe that we can find common ground.  I think that there is a solution that will work for everyone.

    In light of that, we have decided to meet together, face-to-face.  After church on September 15, at 11:15, we will meet with members of both worship services to find common ground.  I sincerely hope that we can find a schedule that is acceptable to all of us.  We are already very close and I believe that we can do it.

    This is the most important part: Between now and September 15th, I am asking you to pray, even if you are not in the habit of doing so.  Find a time, each day, even for just a few moments, to pray for that meeting.  Pray that everyone would seek the best interests of Trinity Church but also pray that God would reveal to you, what he wants us to do instead of what we want to do.  Please pray that God would lead us all to common ground.

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