Interim Pastor’s Message

Interim Pastor’s Report for 2016

As I said in my New Year’s Day 2017 sermon, when the possibility that I would be serving a church named “Grace
First Lutheran Church” came up, my first thought was “I love the name and I hope they mean by it what I want it
to mean”. I want it to mean “We are the church where grace comes first”. Before we worry about anything else
that we do, say, think or feel, our priority is to experience and share God’s grace with ourselves, each other and
everyone and everything God created. Since my arrival in mid November, I have not been disappointed.

I have seen grace

1. As so many of you came together for a Christmas Program featuring 41 Sunday School kids.
2. As you wear your name tags so that I and others can get to know you
3. As TIC evenings are organized, meals are served, kids play and adults reflect together on spiritual topics.
4. As the new woman pastor gets invited to the Men’s Bible Study because they want the support of the one with a theological education.
5. As entry of GFLC youth into the Bend Youth Collective gets more concrete every day.
6. As I am invited into your homes for meals and conversation.
7. As you all ask how I am dealing with all the snow and as the White Team works so diligently to keep ourpathways safe.
8. As everyone is so willing to step up and help where they can
9. As I hear plans beginning to formulate for a mission trip in 2018
10. In many and various ways but I’m going to stop listing them now.

I see this grace coming from a community that is in transition. 2016 marked this congregation’s 100 th year of
ministry and the retirement after 22 years of Pastor Joel LiaBraaten. Add that to births, marriages, illness, job
changes, deaths and all other life events and 2016 contained a lot of change around here. That can sometimes
make people and communities anxious. And sometimes when people and communities are anxious it is hard for them to
be gracious. So far, in my experience, you are living up to your name.

As we go into 2017 the Transition work will begin in earnest. The whole congregation will engage a process of
discernment around “Who is Grace First Lutheran Church? Why does God need this group of people, in this place,
at this time, for this community, with this set of assets? How do we get so clear about who we are, that it will be
clear to us when we meet the person God wants to be our next pastor?” It will be a big year and navigating it with
gracious folks is what will make it fun.


Pastor Shelley Willem

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