Dear Friends,

As I begin my interim pastorate here, I have been so touched by your warm welcome. My days have been full of new meetings and classes, but also new friendships, and expressions of hospitality. From the Chrysalis Group to the Kenya partnership, you have all been so gracious. This week when I visited with the Prayer Shawl ministry team, they even presented me with a shawl in my favorite colors. The staff gave me a plant that sits on my desk reminding me of their kindness. The Church Council presented me with a basket with Wisconsin coffee mugs, jams, an Appleton pillow, and a raft of gift cards to restaurants all over town. Both Peggy, my wife, and I have felt so blessed by your sincere and generous friendship. But I have also been heartened by your response to worship, your faith in this congregation and your commitment to First Congregational Church. When we started to sing the first hymn on Rally Sunday and I looked out on a congregational gathering that exceeded all expectations, I felt so grateful to be here.
But I am also well aware that in this season of newness for me there are also a lot of questions about what this interim period will be like. I realize that you have known loss and change that has been difficult and sometimes difficult to understand. I commend Pastor Nick for writing so personally and pastorally this week about the toll of these transitions, but I also want you to know that a large part of my leadership will involve times to listen.
One reason I have been meeting with the small groups in various areas is to hear what they are passionate about and also concerned about. Throughout my ministry here I would like to re-assure you that I am available to talk about the issues and challenges we face during this transition. So, to begin that process, in a larger way I would like to invite you to remain after worship on September 25 for a Question-and-Answer Session with me and our Moderator Kris Hietpas. We have both worked closely throughout the summer and now into the fall. On September 25 you will have an opportunity to learn more about the decisions we have before us as a congregation and how we hope to solicit your feedback along this path. So I hope you will join us to listen to one another and also to share your thoughts.
Some of you have asked me about my own timetable, and I want to reassure you that I will be with you through this entire interim period. I want to see you safely through to the new chapter of senior leadership. You can trust that. I came here because I was committed to you and that commitment has only grown in the last four weeks. I believe in this church, both its potential and its strength, right now.
Please continue to pray for First Congregational. No church can thrive without being lifted on the wings of prayer, and every church in a time of transition benefits from the sustenance found only in a shower of prayers from its people.

Blessings,

Pastor Susan

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