When asked by Tim Shapiro to be the director of the northeast satellite office of the Center for Congregations in April of 2006, I originally said “no.” I had been planning a retirement from a long-term pastorate in Fort Wayne, and I was looking forward to other endeavors. But the lure of being a part of something new, something with possible benefit to the whole religious community and working with some of the most intelligent and highly skilled religious professionals anywhere prevailed. And I have enjoyed an “encore job” since then.
The Center for Congregations is unique for three reasons. First, the Center is wholly funded by Lilly Endowment. That means that, as a non-profit, we can fully concentrate our energies on fulfilling our mission. We are simply a gift to Indiana congregations wanting to make use of our educational opportunities, resource consulting practice and grants programs. Second, we are available to all religious communities. We are genuinely non-sectarian. That’s because the Center values the positive influence congregations can have when they offer their communities their best practices of faith development and community outreach. Third, we rely on what we call “reversal of initiative.” We aren’t in the business of selling anything. We leave the task of contacting us, asking for resources and grants, and participating in events at the initiative of congregational leaders. The Center is here to serve, not to be served.
My original intention was to work for the Center for about five years. It’s now been more than seven-and-a-half years. And I’ve decided that it is time to turn in my keys. I want to say thanks to the amazing staff of the Center for their respect for each other and for me. Each is a highly gifted individual with a commitment to quality service to congregations who seek us out. It has been a privilege to work with you. I also thank Tim Shapiro for inviting me to work for the Center and for his gracious and forward- looking leadership.
I wish the Center many long years of fruitful ministry.