The year 2020 held many changes and challenges for this congregation. Facing global and national disturbances, unprecedented cultural shifts, and changes to the congregation’s life together, the members of North Creek Presbyterian Church continued to worship, fellowship, and serve others in the name of Jesus. It has been a joy to see people grow in faith, deepen their connections, and serve joyfully - even in the face of loss and change.
Facing a global pandemic and in response to the state’s issued Covid-19 guidance and mandates, the church began online worship only on March 6, 2020. The congregation explored different ways of communicating, worshipping, and meeting together through online platforms and outdoor offerings. Despite a deep desire to return to all-church in-person worship, the people of NCPC have risen admirably to the challenges presented by the pandemic. In addition, the church has prioritized decisions that help keep others safe.
Early in 2020, concerns were raised to the Northwest Coast Presbytery about Rev. Dr. David Casson’s leadership, and a process of review and exploration began. In March, a 360-Review was done, including interviews with a broad representation of members including many chosen by Pastor David. After going through the review process, the Session and Pastor David, along with Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry (COM), determined that there were three options available - a track of professional development, a shift of responsibilities, or a change of call. Pastor David chose the third, and tendered his resignation effective at the end of June. Separation terms were negotiated with the help of COM and Rev. Dr. Kurt Helmcke’s work as Associate Pastor was adapted to include many of the Head-Of-Staff responsibilities. The staff served admirably and faithfully through the summer months as this season of transition began.
I, Rev. Heather James, was hired as the Transitional Pastor beginning September 1, 2020 to work in a half-time position guiding the transition work needed. Some pastoral responsibilities were shifted to my job description, while others remained with Pastor Kurt in his adapted Associate Pastor role. I am deeply grateful to Pastor Kurt for his support in this transition time, and particularly his work with church ministry teams and in pastoral care for the congregation. This year has been challenging for many and Pastor Kurt’s supportive presence has been significant for our church membership.
In October, the church participated in the Church Assessment Tool, authored by Holy Cow Consulting. We also engaged Rev. Dr. Jim Mead as our consultant to help with interpreting the survey and planning for next steps in the church’s journey and pastoral transition. Through the survey process, we learned a few key things about ourselves:
- We have supported one another and worked together to make the pivots needed in 2020, with many giving thanks for the care of this church family in a difficult year.
- We want to see the church thrive and move into the future, but we are lacking energy and enthusiasm.
- We are deeply committed to our spiritual growth, and actively involved in opportunities to learn and grow through Bible study.
- We want to see engagement with new people, youth, and families, but we are disheartened by the continual turnover of youth staff and a bit stumped about how to reach out in this time of Covid-19.
- We want a strong pastoral staff and feel anxious about whether we can afford continuing to extend a call to two pastors.
- We generally want to move forward, but we are aware that there are some among us who still feel sad or confused about Pastor David’s departure.
The survey also clearly articulated three places of stress in our life together:
- A struggle with trust in our leadership, representation in leadership, and the concern that there is a small group of people in the congregation who make decisions without wider engagement.
- A struggle with meaningful worship that engages us and would attract new worshippers - especially in this time of Covid-19.
- A struggle with waning energy and lack of involvement, coupled with a declining sense of hospitality and enthusiasm.
We ended 2020 with a call to be praying intentionally for the church, and an invitation to join into the process of discovery and understanding about these issues in the new year. In keeping with an effective transition process, we will continue to be working toward healing and healthy ministry as we prepare for the work of calling a new pastor to leadership at North Creek Presbyterian Church.
Rev. Heather James