March Notes from Session

Dear Church of the Hills members and friends,

This is a challenging letter to write.  We, members of the Session, have been praying, individually and as a group, and we have been meeting frequently through these first months of 2017 in order to listen, understand, process and respond to all that has happened. We have been aided by the numerous comments, explanations, frustrations and “calls to action” that we and Pastor Susan have received from many of you.

It is clear that recent events have touched a majority of us in profound ways. Each of us has experienced these events and, during our time with COTH, the church culture in our own way.  There is no “one size fits all” description of what has happened nor one single solution or way to move forward.  We hope to address as many of the recent and underlying issues as possible in the weeks and months to come, and we know that we may not address every topic in the way some would choose.

We recognize that some members of COTH are waiting: either attending worship or not, participating in their current church roles or not, fulfilling their 2017 pledge or not, but waiting to see if all, or even some, of their concerns are addressed before deciding if Church of the Hills is still their family of faith. Some of you are simply waiting for all the talk and hurt feelings to die down so you don’t have think about it anymore. It’s a challenging time in the life of COTH, a very tender time.  None of us takes this lightly.

Pastor Susan has referenced our deep wounds and need for healing in her sermons and Pastoral Letters. We have heard from you that the wounds are varied, and some are in direct conflict with others. Some of you have expressed your need to “be heard” in order to begin to move toward healing.  Even though our pain may be different than that of our pew-mates, we recognize that we all have a place at COTH, and, if we recognize others’ pain along with our own, perhaps we will be able to heal more completely.

Since January 15th we have met as a Session five times; two of those meetings included representatives from Presbytery. These meetings have been a time of discernment, reflection, and sharing of information gathered by each of us. Broadly speaking, we are able to categorize the hurts and wounds, each worthy of and requiring special attention, into three categories.
  • Some were very hurt and offended and/or angered by criticism levied at Chuck, and secondarily at Session and the PNC, during the congregational meeting on January 15th.
  • Some are nursing wounds experienced during the past year because of Chuck’s leadership style and the urgency with which he brought forward ideas; some were hurt by not feeling listened to and/or by his reaction to your concerns or ideas.
  • Some who have been members of COTH for a decade or more are feeling frustrated and exhausted, recognizing that there is a pattern -a culture – of lack of trust. These same folks are feeling hopeless that this culture will ever be addressed and reversed.

Additionally, we’ve heard that Session has fallen short over the years in communicating regularly and completely. We own that, and we strive to do better going forward.

We all have felt the division and the tension within our church family these past weeks. It is important that we acknowledge that none of us is perfect.  In our brokenness, we have hurt one another.  Even in our imperfection, we affirm that God can and will prevail.  While none of us is coming from quite the same place of hurt, we all can work together toward peace, unity, and purity of the church.  We recognize that healing will take time, and our next steps together are critical.  

There is much to be done, and we understand the urgency. At this time, and not necessarily in priority order, here are the some of the steps Session members are committed to taking during the next weeks:

  • Scheduling a church-wide workshop to jointly craft a covenant which will guide us, with peace, unity and purity, moving into the future. This event will be scheduled later this spring and will include newly elected Elders. 
  • Supporting the nominating process in order to identify, elect and train an exceptional group of church leaders for the 2017-2020 terms. A Special Meeting of the Congregation is scheduled following worship on Sunday, March 26th for the purpose of electing officers.
  • Continuing to address how to organize Session committees and teams which function smoothly, responsibly and responsively.
  • Reviewing and revising the 2017 budget to reflect available resources and priorities. This will be in conjunction with a “recommitment Sunday” during which members will again commit their time, talent, and treasure to COTH.
  • With much praise and appreciation for Pastor Susan, continuing the focus on meaningful worship services during the Lenten and Easter season and beyond.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we have a long road in front of us. Some in our church family have already expressed their intention to find another church.  As mentioned earlier, some are taking a break, waiting to see what directions are taken, telling us those actions (or inactions) will inform them as they discern if or when and how to come back to COTH.

We all must be patient with one another.  Let’s do our very best to glorify God through our actions, our words and our faithfulness.

Peace be with you,

COTH Session