Pastor Mike’s Corner

September 1, 2020

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,[a] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of[b] the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-20.

          As you may know, this is one of my favorite passages from the New Testament.  It resonates for me, because this is the way I view life and especially the life of faith.  Life is often very hard, filled with obstacles and set-backs as well as high moments and joy.  Life is a long haul, like a marathon race, which is the principal image the author uses in this passage.  I also think these are words that can speak hope and encouragement given our present situation: life and faith in the midst of a pandemic, which has already seemed like a marathon to many of us having tested our patience and our faith for six months now.  Yet, as I look back over these months and see the ways we as a congregation have weathered them together, I cannot help but be hopeful and grateful for your companionship and support as we run this race together.

          Indeed, in the aftermath of the call vote on Sunday, I find myself reflecting on the marathon of the last three years I have spent here at Amazing Grace, and what the time ahead will bring as I continue to serve this congregation.  I want to thank the congregation for extending my time here with you.  I know that not everyone was in favor or calling me to continue as your pastor, and I want to assure those who did not vote to extend an open ended call for me at Amazing Grace, that I will be your pastor all the same, and I will do my best to minister to you and serve you.  Much has happened in the last three years, there having been many challenges and there have also been some gains and hopeful encouraging developments in the life of this congregation. 

            And when you reflect back on the entire history of Amazing Grace, I think you will be able to recall that there have been many challenges faced, conflicts and controversies lived through, losses sustained, as well as worthwhile ministry rendered and gains made for Jesus and his kingdom.  One word I think should rise to the forefront for this congregation is perseverance.  One cannot run a distance race without perseverance.  This congregation has persevered through many challenges across the years.  Covid-19 and the racial and political climate of our nation, are only the most recent.  Yet this congregation continues to maintain its witness because of the enduring presence and leadership of the Holy Spirit and because of the faith and perseverance of our members.

       Another example of the perseverance of faith that I can think of is the life of Verne Rink, who died last Saturday morning.  You all knew Verne as the crotchety, good humored fellow in our congregation, who had lived through many challenges in his life, and persevered all of them through faith.  Over the last year especially he spend a large chunk of time in the hospital, and in a rehab facility.  He even survived a bout with Covid-19, in spite of his lung issues.  Every time I saw him or spoke to him he would proclaim that he was ready should the Lord decided to take him.  He lived a life of faith, enduring surgeries on his back, and many other hardships I know nothing about, living a marathon race. 

       All that I have said is true now as much as ever I think.  When the pandemic first forced us to suspend worship and all gatherings, the realist in me, which I confess often tends towards pessimism, feared that we would not survive this colossal challenge as a congregation.  How were we going to survive months of not being able to meet, and the financial hit we were likely to take?  In spite of those fears, I continued to put one foot in front of the other, during this most arduous stretch of the race, just as all of you have; and although this marathon run through pandemic is far from over, I am able to look back with wonder at the strength with which we have survived to this point as a community.  We are back worshiping together, physically at times, and thanks to the efforts of some of our more technologically astute folks, via live stream and video.  Indeed, the audience we have virtually right now represents an expansion and growth for us.  Amazing Grace has survived better financially than we had any right to anticipate.  We did not have to lay off any staff, nor cut anyone’s salary during this time, which still amazes me.  Our Latino worshipers have continued to meet faithfully over Zoom, and recently in person.  I have been able to continue to teach Bible Study, finish a year of confirmation, and even lead Vacation Bible School using technology I was not even acquainted with six months ago.  I’m not bragging.  Whatever successes and gains we have made these last months, I give all the credit and the glory to God’s Holy Spirit, taking our limited abilities, and enabling us to accomplish more together, than we could have expected.

I had the triune God, and I had all of you, accompanying me, encouraging me, every step of this marathon, which has me looking ahead with hope and enthusiasm to the challenges we face next.  I am looking forward to joining with you in reestablishing ministries that have gone dormant, and to infusing some new life into our Latino mission focus.  A prospect no one was envisioning five years ago now represents the best opportunity for growth at Amazing Grace in my opinion for all persons who make up this congregation.  Thank you all for placing trust in me, encouraging me, and running the race along side of me.  For I don’t believe I have continued to run this race through my own efforts, or the endurance I have been able to muster from within. If that was all I had going for me, I would have dropped out of the race long ago, with severe leg cramps, and dehydration.  I have been able to run with perseverance the race that we are in, only by keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, and because you have been with me cheering me on.  And I continue to look forward to our partnership together!

God Bless You and Keep You All!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Mike

Hello from Pastor Mike!

Hello: I am Pastor Michael Millum (you can call me Pastor Mike). I don’t know what you may have heard about me.  If it was something good, I will do my best to live up to the advanced billing.  I have been in full-time ministry for nearly 30 years, ten of them as a United Methodist pastor, and the remaining nearly 20 as an ELCA pastor.  The story of my migration from the UMC to the ELCA is too involved to get into in this format. For the past nearly 16 years I have served as the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Torrington, CT.  Originally, though I am from San Diego, CA.  Growing up, I never envisioned myself living in the frozen tundra of the northeast.  In fact, growing up, when I would hear weather reports on the news about the minus 20 degree temperatures with wind chill, I thought to myself, “You’d have to be crazy to live in a place that gets that cold”.  It was a cruel twist of fate then that I would meet and fall in love with a girl from New England and spend the last 20 years shivering from November through January. .

 

My wife, Deborah (she goes by Deb) is an attorney who works for an insurance company called RLI, with an office here in Atlanta.  We have three sons, Drew, 23, Keith, nearly 21, an Trent 19.  Drew graduated college this past December and is beginning the next chapter of his young life in Nashville, TN.  He moved there just recently. Like me he is not a fan of the New England weather.  Keith is a senior at Merrimack College in MA and should graduate in May. Trent is a sophomore at Susquehanna University in PA. Drew lives close enough that we hope he will be a frequent visitor.  The other two will be down on longer school breaks and you may have the opportunity to meet them then.

 

As your pastor, I come with the goal of getting to know your congregation, and providing some stability with worship, and the various ministries and programs of the congregation.  You’ve been through this recently enough that you know how this works.  But for the year I am with you, I’m your guy.  I will  be here to visit, especially the homebound in the congregation, and provide pastoral care for the sick and the dying, and spiritual nourishment through God’s Word and sacrament.  I am excited to meet you and do whatever I can to facilitate the call process as you look to call a full-time, settled pastor.  I’m excited! Eager! And I thank you for this opportunity.  God’s blessings as we journey together through this next year!

 

Pastor Mike