Endings and Beginnings

I’ve been putting off writing this for some time now, but I can’t put it off forever. It’s just that writing about it seems to give it so much  finality.  But then, experience has demonstrated writing about it brings acceptance as well, and since not writing about it won’t stop it from happening, I may as well get on with it.

Pastor Don McCallum is leaving KPC.

I’ve been a believer for just about 35 years now, and for the last 14 years Don McCallum has been my pastor.  Before that there was a long line of individuals in a variety of denominations starting with the Anglican minister who gave me a copy of Nietzche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil‘ as a confirmation gift when I was 13. (Interestingly enough, a young man named Davian is sitting at the desk behind me reading that very book as I’m writing this.)

If you check out my Facebook profile under religion it reads “Anglican/ Baptist/ Pentecostal/ Presbyterian with definite Jewish sympathies ” and that’s only a list of the major influences.  I was even blessed to have a Messianic rabbi as one of the early mentors (hence the ‘Jewish sympathies’), but for sheer longevity and range of interaction no one has been as large an influence on me as has Don McCallum.  It’s been one of the most productive and enjoyable relationships which I’ve ever had the privilege of taking part. That’s what makes change so hard.

But change is what growth is all about. If nothing changes there is only stagnation and that isn’t good for anyone or anything, and so the best way for me to get through this is embrace it and pray that it is only the ending of one phase of the relationship. Indeed, I pray that it is the beginning of a whole new phase of relationship;  for Don, for me, and for Kortright Presbyterian Church.

When Don first told me he was leaving (almost a month ago–worship planning works 4 months in advance, so we needed to know) it started me thinking about when Pete, Phil and Jim left. For those of you who don’t know, Pete Olsen was our youth pastor, Phil English was our worship pastor, and Jim Klaas was our discipleship pastor.  Each one, in turn, felt that the time had come for them to move on to other things. Each one had their influence on me, on Kortright and then moved on to influence others.  Now Don is leaving as well. The paranoid side of my insecurity is starting to wonder if it was something I said!?

But then I believe God began to show me a pattern.

It started when we moved to Devere Drive on our 25th anniversary. There was a general feeling of malaise at Scotsdale Drive.  Pretty much everyone felt we were in a rut and needed something new to kick us back into high gear.  Since space was an issue we started looking for a new building. It took more than 5 seemingly fruitless years, but then one day the old University Village School just seemed to drop into our lap. We tendered an offer, it was accepted, and we moved to the promised land.

And that’s where it ramped up a notch. The promised land metaphor was bandied around quite a bit. In fact, it was bandied about a lot. There was even talk of making a ‘crossing of the Hanlon Expressway video’.  But I don’t think any of us truly appreciated how much of a wilderness experience moving here was really going to be.

As expected there was an immediate drop off in attendance. Then shortly thereafter Pete and his wife Cindi were parachuted into the Northwest territories. (Well, not literally, though I’m sure Pete would have thought it a cool idea.) Other things began to change as well. Phil led us through a paradigm shift in worship which included the establishing of a worship planning team, Jim tried a variety of discipleship ideas but found the small groups dynamic was shifting. New people started to take leadership roles and we found things like bannering, and liturgical dance working their way into our midst. One thing after another came, or went, or was replaced as we struggled to discover our new identity in this new environment.

We changed our vision statement, our mission statement and our motto. A new goals directive was adopted, by a group of elders that was much changed from the one that left Scotsdale Drive; with the addition of more new elders next month, that dynamic will change again.  As I have already mentioned, along the way Pete, Phil and Jim moved on to bigger and better things. Now Don McCallum is doing the same. We’ve gone from 4 pastors to no pastors in three and a half years.

That’s when it hit me. We had forgotten one little detail about crossing the Jordan. One aspect of moving to the promised land had completely escaped our notice.

Nobody that left Egypt ever got to the promised land!!

Well, except Joshua and Caleb; because the promised land was such a new thing that it required a new way of thinking by those who were going to inhabit it.  The old ways would have worked against the new thing that God was trying to do. (And did, as it turned out.)

Now I’m not saying that an entire generation needs to die off before KPC will get its act together, however much it may seem to be taking that long.   But I do think we failed to notice the fact that sometimes to be effective change needs to be complete, total, even massive in scope.  It may require massive change because there are massive changes happening in the world we have been called to reach.  Every generation is different than the one before it, but most sociologists agree that the scope of change from one generation to the next is increasing exponentially.

I’m beginning to believe that God wanted to do far more with Kortright than we had ever imagined.  We were plateaued and going nowhere, just rolling along maintaining the status quo. For us to move forward we needed to go someplace we’d never been before and as much as we might have great affection for some of the things we wanted to bring along, they were slowing us down, miring us in the muck at the bottom of the Red Sea. What hurts most is to think some of the things holding us back might be people we truly love and care about.  But it may well be that the status quo is holding them back as well. It may well be that if they are going to grow, they need to be somewhere else.

And so it would seem that more changes are required than we thought. For the descendants of Israel, moving into the promised land took a lot of hard work and more than a few battles had to be fought. There were many casualties along the way. But it was worth it, because in the end a new nation was born.

And I think it will be worth it for Kortright as well. God is reinventing us into something completely new.  It has occurred to me that by the time we reach our 30th anniversary in Sept of 2010 we will have spent the last 5 years bringing about a new location, a new paradigm of worship, a new mission statement, a new vision statement, and new goals directive, a new youth pastor, a new children’s ministry director, a new music director, a new technical director, a new session (board of elders), and a new senior pastor.  By our 30th anniversary God will have all but totally re-invented Kortright Presbyterian Church. It will still be the same community of people, but a new version of that community with a new vision for the future.

Which is why I have decided that, for myself anyway, I’m going to call it Kortright 3.o

I know it’s incredibly geeky, but that’s the way I find myself thinking about it. As we cross the 30 year mark it will be as if we are entering into a whole new version of Kortright – version 3.0 – still very much the same place but with a few updated features, and a few new ones, some unproductive features removed from the menu, a little debugging done along the way, resulting in an improved spiritual experience that makes Kortright a greater and more effective community than it is right now.  And that’s exciting!

And I’ll be writing about all of it here, from one gray man’s perspective. Nothing about the future is going to be very black and white I imagine, just myriad shades of gray.  But I’ll comment on it here under the tag ‘Kortright 3.0’.  And I invite you to comment on the process as well. There will need to be many conversations about what is happening at KPC; I’d like to start one of them right here.

If you’re from Kortright then please pass around the link to this article. Let’s use the comment feature to start a dialog about what is happening at KPC. If there is enough traffic I’ll transfer all of this to a blog of its own. For now I’ll archive everything to a new menu page called – you guessed it – Kortright 3.0

This is an ending, there’s no doubt about that, but it is also a beginning; I’m excited to be here as the future unfolds.  In the past I was usually the one moving on; but God has given me a home at Kortright and so this time I’m staying while others do the moving. 

A new experience – this is going to be a great adventure.


One thought on “Endings and Beginnings

  1. Hey Den. It is indeed a very exiting time at KPC. I personally think, one thing that will help identify us in the future is the new Men’s Ministry. I trust you have attended a meeting and given your Ideas on how the men at Kortright can revitilize this congregation. I definetly feel we are at a crossroad to survival or greatness. The new music director is an amazing step forward. Now lets follow it up by getting the men at KPC jazzed about getting involved. AMEN!!!!!

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