by Rev. Eric Folkerth
For several weeks now, friends have been telling me, “I am excited that you will soon be the minister at Kessler Park…”
My response is always the same: “Not as excited as I am.”
And it’s true.
I’m deeply, widely, and genuinely thrilled to be your new pastor. And I can’t wait to see what God has in store for all of us together.
As a minister in the North Texas Conference, I have long been aware of the important place of Kessler Park UMC, and its rich history. Even in my first few days, I have been amazed to recall stories of all the important clergy and leaders who have come out of Kessler over the years.
But I want to say this too: I am confident that as bright as Kessler’s past has been, the potential for our future together is even brighter. North Oak Cliff is an incredibly vibrant, diverse, progressive, and growing neighborhood. Kessler Park, it has long seemed to me, is uniquely suited to be THE church that serves just that kind of neighborhood.
Several of you have already asked me what my vision is for the church.
As I’ve said to several of you already, “We should be the cool, hip, growing church for Dallas’ cool, hip, growing neighborhood.”
What does that mean?
Well, that will be for all of us to decide together.
That’s why the Staff Parish Committee will soon announce a series of “Get To Know You” gatherings in member’s homes. Please do plan to attend one of these more intimate gatherings, so we can get to know each other better, and hear about your hopes and dreams for the Church. Dennise, Maria and I look forward to getting to know you all in these settings.
Here are some questions for you to start thinking over now. There may be more, but these are things I will be eager to hear from you in these small groups:
— What do you love about your church?
— What do you wish we could do to reach our community and “mission field?”
— And finally, what breaks your heart about the world, and what can our church to do heal or reconcile it?
These are questions that will, hopefully, help me get a sense of our congregation and who we are.
Friends, I would be remiss if I did not mention our mutual friend, Dr. Wes Magruder, and his beautiful family. I know some of you are deeply grieving Wes’ impending departure to South Africa. (As of this writing, the departure date is still up in the air…keep praying).
I simply want you know that I count Wes as one of my dearest friends in ministry too. When either of us has needed a listening ear —especially these past several years— more often than not we have called each other for support. So, you need to know: I am right there with you, and I will miss him deeply too.
Finally, I wanted to tell you a bit about my very short (because of the holiday) first week.
Here’s what I did…
— Met with our great staff.
— Unpacked some boxes.
— Paid a pastoral visit to some longterm members in their home.
— Attended a Prayer Vigil to protest ICE immigration raids (with other KPUMC staff and lay members)
— Planned worship for Sunday.
— Had coffee and got to know other lay members.
That’s pretty much it. And, somehow, that “form” of the first few short days, is a model for who I hope to be among you…
A pastor…who gets to know you and who cares for you and your families.
A leader of our staff team…who supports them and facilitates our work as a team.
A listener…who gets to know you each, in groups both big and small.
A preacher and teacher…who leads in worship and teaching.
A prophet…speaks on your behalf to the greater community about the Good New of God’s love and justice.
An administrator…who helps us vision and live out that vision.
Each of these roles are important. And I look forward to leading you in each of these ways.
We who are church pastors are invited to be a part of your lives in so many different and unique settings. We are invited into your homes and hospital rooms…at times of great joy or great suffering. We are invited to hear your life-stories, and help them discern your life-journey. We are called to help you do the work of the church.
I am deeply grateful for the chance to lead you in this next season of Kessler’s life. I have sense that it’s going to be a crucial and fruitful season for us all.
I am quite confident that I will fail you many times. I am hopeful that I will apologize as often as I need to. I am human and have many foibles and character traits that, I am certain will, soon enough, be annoying to some of you.
But a part of what it means to be “church” is to learn how to love one another for all of our strengths and our weakness; to recognize that we are stronger together, and that our individual gifts can be leveraged and lengthened through the grace of God, and the ministry of the messy, imperfect, and sometimes deeply frustrating community we call “Church.”
I look forward to our journey together.
See you Sunday.