Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Gerlinde and I hope you all enjoyed a Blessed Christmas, and we are disappointed that our medical struggles have prevented us from being present to worship with you in recent weeks. We miss full participation in the life of the church, and our absence must be disconcerting for many of you. I write this letter to communicate directly with you what is going on with us; the strengths I see in your congregation that demonstrate to me that God is present and at work among you; and my goals for working with you this next year as you prepare to call your next pastor.
When I was praying and evaluating congregations who were looking to call a transitional pastor this past summer, I felt God was drawing me to FPCH for many reasons: my early exposure to FPCH as a young adult visiting the SALT Company; my familiarity with FPCH’s history of faithfulness to the Word of God in teaching, prayer and outreach; and knowledge of your congregation through my long-time friend and your former transitional pastor, Gary Stratman. Like other congregations I have served who strove to follow Christ faithfully in spite of broader cultural pressures that tore at the fabric of the congregations, FPCH has faced challenging times that some of you might call discouraging, frustrating or painful. Gerlinde and I were prepared to roll up our sleeves to work alongside you to prepare for a revitalized future under the leadership of a new called pastor. Neither of us could have anticipated that we both would be sidelined medically so unexpectedly – that Gerlinde’s kidney surgery for a life-threatening stone would be postponed repeatedly and that I would suffer a recurrence of neurological symptoms that I experienced – and recovered from – 20 years ago. God has been testing us – and FPCH – throughout this turmoil. I want you to know that I am undergoing full medical workup with various tests last week and this week; Gerlinde’s surgery with a highly trained specialist is rescheduled for January 4, 2022. We are confident that God will heal us, renew our strength and release us to serve Him at FPCH!
I see so many ways that God is at work at FPCH, especially in the congregation’s prayer ministry. We have experienced tremendous prayer support from you as well as a great outpouring of love. We are looking forward to fostering the strengthening of the church family through love for each other and the surrounding community. Take encouragement through the gifts and dedication of the people you have called to be your elders and deacons! You have a strong session that is learning to embrace the missional responsibility that session is called to exercise. Remember that session is called to lead the church; take comfort in knowing that God led you to call gifted elders rooted in scripture and open to the Holy Spirit’s discernment to lead your congregation. Your session is working to chart a course for the congregation under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and Christ Himself is the rudder. God is in control. Pray for your elders and ask God to continue guiding them according to His will so that your congregation will continue to be a blessing to one another and the surrounding community. Pray for your deacons as they minister to your church family and the less fortunate.
The COVID-19 shudowns and regulations have been hard on all churches, and FPCH is no different. Many of you are responding to the blessing of being able to be present together in worship, with others who are yet unable to join in person now having the opportunity to participate via livestream. We recently experienced a beautiful, Christ-centered series of performances of A Christmas Carol that has proven to be an effective ministry within the congregation as well as outside. We hosted a Spirit-filled Cathedral Choir concert. Our children’s and youth choirs are participating in worship again. The Sunday School and youth programs have reopened, and families that had fallen out of touch during COVID shutdowns are starting to return. Your session has authorized a Director of Christian Education position to revitalize our goal of spreading the Word of God across the generations and discipling others as widely as possible. Your Missions Committee continues to oversee significant outreach to our local community and worldwide ministries.
Gerlinde and I are grateful for your kindness and prayer support. We are eager to work among you as a church family as we serve God together to bring light to a broken world.
Pastor Dave Watson