This Post is from Guest Blogger Rev. Erik Parker
In the fall of 2009 a request came from 2 small congregations north of Parkland County (just west of Edmonton) to meet with the 4 congregations of Stony Plain and Spruce Grove. Emmaus, Calahoo and St. John’s Alberta Beach were having trouble keeping up with the cost of a part time interim pastor. And so with Assistant to the Bishop Phil Hink, Good Shepherd, Stony Plain, Immanual Rosenthal, St. Matthew’s, Spruce Grove, and St. John of Golden Spike joined in the conversation.
While the initial intent of our gathering was to discuss what could be done for Emmaus and St. John’s, we quickly realized that there was so much more that all of us could for each other. And so we began talking. We met once a month to talk. And the Parkland Area Lutheran Network (PALN) was born.
The pastors of these congregations already met once a month for clergy cluster meetings, so talking and sharing stories from that perspective wasn’t new. The difference was the involvement of lay leaders from each congregation. What quickly developed was a group of local congregational leaders meeting to talk with each other about the struggles and the joys of being a congregation, and then the possibilities of working together. As pastors our role become clear — get out of the way — and let the real leaders of our congregations take us in a new direction.
Normally, when congregations meet together, it is out of necessity. The dreaded ideas of amalgamation or closure loom. And so meeting when there is nothing on line to lose, and only support, excitement, and opportunities to gain has meant that we have accomplished much in only a year.
In the last 12 months we have approached the local paper about joint advertising for Christmas, and we are about to change the weekly “Houses of Worship” ad to say that we are all members of PALN. We have shared concerts, guest speakers, services and more. We have gathered together at summer campfires for singing, s’mores and fellowship. We have shared a golf tournament and begun joint youth events on a monthly basis. We are going to join together for confirmation retreats and share the teaching. We are even considering sharing a seminary intern for year.
As we go forward, we have decided to set a focus on evangelism and our goal right now is simply to talk about it. In our second year together, we are starting to see that change doesn’t happen over night and there is no magic bullet idea, program or event that will solve all our problems. Rather, the most valuable thing that we do is talk. The projects that we try may succeed or fail, but because we have sat down to talk In the Name of Christ, what we do is always of value.
So start your own Networks and see where the Holy Spirit will lead you!
Many thanks to Erik for sharing this story. If you have your own stories of renewal to share, please pass them to us and we will share them.