Thursday, December 29, 2011

STOLPE STAR - a year of transitions

Extended Family Trip South to North and Back

I have posted our 2011 Christmas letter content here with pictures, but the layout is not the same as what we emailed. Each article is a separate post, all done on December 29. Someday I may figure out how to put a pdf into blogger.

· With Candy’s Dad in Minneapolis enjoying an old-timey music concert in the park. (2 pictures)
· Lunch with Rachel, David, Sam and Elizabeth in their Milwaukee kitchen being remodeled.
· Norman and Candy with their niece Helen Williams in Rachel and David’s back yard.
· Lunch with Candy’s Aunt Vonnie and Uncle Roger in Grand Island, Nebraska.
· Sand Hill Cranes stop on the Platte River in Nebraska during migration.

Traveling Transitions

Norman finished up eleven years as pastor of Central Christian Church in Dallas, Texas the end of May and began as Interim Pastor for First Christian Church of Duncanville, Texas on September 1. In between they marked this transition with a trip to the Midwest to visit extended family.

First destination was Candy’s Dad in Minneapolis, where they had not visited for a few years. He is still in his own home but considering what his next steps need to be. Though not settling on plans, the face-to-face connection was important as this transition approaches.

Then to Milwaukee to Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. On the last day of school Norm and Candy visited Sam’s and Elizabeth’s classes and closing staff lunch with Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School in West Allis, where David is the Dean of Students. This visit also included a homemade ice cream supper with Milwaukee Mennonite Church. David made “Hemingway’s Flaming Coronary.” Helping Rachel get the garden in included rescuing potatoes from the compost and planting them for good harvest.

Next was a couple of days with Norman’s Mom at Holmstadt Retirement Community in Batavia, Illinois. At 91, every chance to see her is a privilege. They were able to stay with Norman’s sister Elaine and her husband Max.

The last stop before heading home was in Grand Island , NE to see Candy’s Aunt Vonnie and Uncle Roger. Candy and Vonnie went through a lot of Ronngren family memories and connections.

Several years had passed since they took such a car trip. It formed a buffer between stages in Norman’s career and gave extended time to talk, reflect and pray over the transitions of 2011.

Adieu Amber

Amber came with Norman, Candy and Erik from Wisconsin in 2000 as a young dog just having outgrown puppyhood. Texas summers were harder than Wisconsin winters. When Erik moved back in after college, she had to learn to live with his two dogs, Tess and Isis. With collapsing hips in old age she left us in June 2011.

Norman Begins A New Phase of Ministry as an Interim Pastor

“Retirement” is certainly not the right word, even though the Christian Church Pension Board now considers Norman a retired pastor. Starting Medicare and denominational pension (but not social security or other retirement resources) may make this official but the reality is he has moved into a new phase of ministry.

Since 2010 Norman and Central Christian Church had been communicating to coordinate the trajectories of pastoral and congregational ministries. Approaching eleven years made Norman’s the longest pastorate for Central Christian Church since 1978, and plans for a new era of outreach and growth called for fresh leadership. Approaching age 65, Norman knew he wasn’t ready to retire but was prepared for a new phase of ministry.

Prayerful consideration was given to hospital or hospice chaplaincy, spiritual director and retreat leader and interim pastoral ministry. Conversations with people in each of these fields and exploration of the necessary preparation and credentials kept pointing toward interim pastoral ministry.

Interim Ministry Network training and activating his profile with the Office of Search and Call of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) propelled Norman into his first “job search” in over a decade. But this was different. Not looking for a settled position but for a congregation whom Norman could help guide through their transition between pastors. It opened an era of perpetual job searching.

Norman and Candy visited two congregations in San Antonio, where he preached and was interviewed. Phone conversations explored possibilities with several other congregations. Then all the arrows began pointing to 1st Christian Church in Duncanville, TX, where Norman began as interim pastor on September 1.

Duncanville is about 22 miles of almost all freeway driving straight south of Norman and Candy’s home. The congregation just celebrated their 118th anniversary and has developed along with the Duncanville community. A small farming community with country culture until the suburban sprawl south of Dallas began to absorb them in the 60s. 1st Christian flourished with suburbia. As urbanization brought economic, cultural and ethnic diversity in the 21st century, 1st Christian Church is pursuing an intentional transition for effective ministry in this emerging environment. Norman’s experience and perspective seems well suited to preparing the congregation to welcome a new pastor to lead them in this new era of ministry.

How Transition is Changing Us — By Norman

For the last couple of years I have been aware of being in a time of transition in my career, and for 2010 and into 2011 I was quite consciously guiding Central Christian Church on their transition not only to new pastors (Rev. Drs. Steve and Debbie Chisolm) but to a new era of ministry.

In this process, God is changing me. I am having to come to terms with the “living in tents” metaphor (Hebrews 11:9-11) that I have claimed for many years. After long relationships with three congregations (12, 17 and 11 years), I hope to have approximately one year relationships with at least another 5 or 6 congregations. This is not just a new place to serve every year but a recognition that I am personally changing at least as much as I was as an adolescent and young adult.

Candy and I are in our own transition even as we are guiding this congregation through their transition. Erik is still living with us, so we are also participants in his transition from college student to fully independent adult. As he is addressing some of those challenges, we are constantly trying to balance granting him adult independence and supporting him on his journey.

As appealing as some time in San Antonio might have been, in light of our own transitions, we are thankful to be able to all be in our home together, rather than have a commuter marriage and ministry. In retrospect, we are also very thankful to be at 1st Christian Church in Duncanville. They have welcomed us very quickly (quick in and quick out is part of being an interim pastor). We are already enriched by these new friends as we have been by all of you “from our past.” They recognize God has them at the threshold of something new and are open and enthusiastic about my leadership and have been good sports about trying new things. I am having a lot of fun as their interim pastor.

Interim pastoral ministry brings the freedom of not having been part of the history and being able to hand the future off to someone else. I am thankful to be serving this congregation as my first interim pastorate. I know from experience and the Interim Ministry Network training that the interim period between pastors can be traumatic and conflictual. I know that I’m likely to face this with another congregation, but starting in a fairly healthy congregation is a gift.

We are finding walking with this congregation’s transitions to be God’s gift to help us with our life transitions.

Not Ready for Christmas

Christmas is not over but only begun. I am completing our Christmas letter on December 26, the second day of Christmas (Boxing Day in the UK, the Feast of Stephen for Good King Wenceslas). Maybe it’s just a rationalization to tell ourselves that if we get Christmas taken care of in the 12 Days (before Epiphany on January 6), we’re still on time. We’ve been aware the slowing down has been coming on for a while. Maybe this year we’re just accepting it. When Simeon saw the 40 day old Jesus (Luke 2:29-32) he was ready to leave this life having seen God’s salvation. Though not expecting to depart any time soon, perhaps our more relaxed approach to Christmas comes as our vision of God’s salvation gets clearer and closer.
Merry Christmas to you all!
from Norm for Candy too

Three Brothers Update

After completing management training, Erik became the Assistant Manager at the Pei Wei Asian Diner in Lewisville, Texas. Near the end of 2011 he was transferred to be the Assistant Manager at the Highland Village restaurant, about 20 miles north of our home where he and his dogs, Tess and Isis, live with us.

David is now in his second year as Dean of Students at Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School in West Allis, Wisconsin. Rachel continues to nanny some nights and mother Sam (10) and Elizabeth (5) every day. Penguins are Sam’s mascot pandas Elizabeth’s. Sam has begun playing cello. Elizabeth has enjoyed ballet in 2011 and loves to sing! They continue to be active in the leadership of Milwaukee Mennonite Church.

Jon continues to manage an automated building controls engineering group with Siemans in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Leanne has had a good year of mental health and is working with special needs children as a behavioral therapist. Hannah (14) is raising another seeing eye puppy. Isaac (11) grows in trumpet and piano. They continue to be active in leadership with Christ’s Church of the Valley in Royersford.