I write to you today from my desk at home, where just outside my window, mounds of snow now dot the bushes. It’s quiet, save for the occasional squeals of our neighborhood kids who have found a nearby hill to be the prime spot for sledding. My day’s agenda has been called off — kids’ school cancelled, my lunch gathering rescheduled, meetings postponed, to do list items delayed. Instead of producing, accomplishing, managing, I am sitting, reading, playing. Snow days for me are a holy pause, simultaneously stressful for all that it disrupts yet calming for what it invites. But in the end, they are almost always the holy pause I didn’t even know I needed.

It seems to me that our church is being summoned into a holy pause, one that – like a snow day – wasn’t entirely of our choosing, but one that will ask us to sideline our best-laid plans for a brief moment. (Or, in the words of my son Liam, “take a breathe!”)

I shared with you on Sunday that our Special Committee on Facilities and Mission’s plans had changed, plans to present new information about our building project’s cost and timeline. You know that we began our work with Frank L. Blum Construction back in September, and Blum has been working diligently during this preconstruction period to understand fully the intricacies of our building. The talented folks from Blum have told us honestly that our project is one of the most complex they’ve seen, and thus the information they shared recently with the Special Committee was not what we were anticipating regarding our next steps. However, this is precisely why we entered into a relationship with Blum as our ‘construction manager at risk’: linking church, architect, and contractors now to mitigate surprises down the road when the stakes are higher.  

Thus, the courageous leadership of our Deacons, Capital Campaign Steering Committee, Special Committee, and staff together made a wise decision to pivot us into a ‘holy pause’ for a bit, creating a margin through which we can gain further clarity on the complexities of the work that lies ahead. What this means for us logistically is that our Special Committee is now working with focused intensity with Joe Bircher, our architect, and the folks from Blum to understand and work through the numbers and timeline they presented. It means our preparatory work for the capital campaign is adapting and shifting, and that the campaign timeline will lengthen to create space for this other work. This information about our project will come to you just as soon as possible.

Until then, it is even more vitally important that we hear how God might be calling us forward with a renewed vision for our future, with shared values we hold to be essential to our identity and mission and specific initiatives that might help us live firmly into that vision. Since snow and surprises set aside our schedule, we will gather as a congregation instead on Wednesday, February 7, 6:00-7:15 p.m., for the Special Committee to say back to you what you said to them about your dreams for our church. Please make every effort to be a part, and of course, to be in prayer for our beloved community. May this ‘holy pause’ be just the thing we didn’t know we needed!

Together in the work of Love,
Pastor Emily

p.s. – I will miss worshiping with you this Sunday, as my family and I will be back in Louisville at Highland Baptist Church, where I served for six years before my call to First Baptist. My dear friend, former pastor, and mentor Joe Phelps is retiring, and they have invited me back (among others) to speak words of gratitude and reflection for Joe in his final Sunday worship as pastor and in a celebration service on Sunday afternoon. I will carry your warm greetings to them with me, and will return to you with great hopefulness for what lies ahead!

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