John Corson's Blog

WRITING & RANTING
for June 5, 2021

TOMORROW'S QUESTION MARK

It's the day before the dreaded Sunday. I don't mean that Sunday in and of itself is dreaded. It's the unanswered questions that loom in the back of my mind as to how Sunday is gong to turn out - more especially, how the worship service - the giving, the attendance, the participation, and the reception of the whole thing turns out.

I am long past the accolades and compliments of "that was a nice sermon today, Preacher" and "I appreciated what you had to say today, Pastor." Compliments aside, just the genuine acknowledgement that you heard a word or two of what I said would go a long way to answering my one question, the one that whirls through my head starting about 12:05 pm each Sunday. That is, "Was anybody listening today?"

After a Preacher's honeymoon is over (which is usually between six months to a year) the compliments come few and far between. That is normal in that the people are getting use to you and so they do see the need to compliment. I personally don't expect it, but I would like to hear something like: "What was that you said about..." or I agreed with what you said about ..." I would even settle for "I didn't like what you said about ..." or "I didn't agree with your statement that ..."

I usually average one acknowledgement a month and one compliment every six or seven weeks. It's those long periods in between when I simply wonder if anybody was awake during the message, or if there were a couple or a few people still conscious during a little bit of the message.

Now, I am looking forward to one big event. We are having a baptism tomorrow. A little 8 years old girl, who used to attend church with her parents between March of 2016 and November, 2017 is going to be baptized. She remembered our church after being gone nearly 4 years as she was once a student in our Pre-school program and day care learning facility before we closed in after the Summer of 2018. Her mother was also my secretary who I hired before they started to attend the church.

In September of 2016 I baptized her and her husband - Courtney and Andrew - and the two of them became very active in the church. Andrew is in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Norfolk at the time, but he made Chief Petty Officer in 2017 and his billet was up. Trying to stay on in the Norfolk area proved to be impossible and he and Courtney were relocated to Groton, Connecticut. We took a big loss.

Before I go on I just want to point out what I think is really a sad situation in our church. I have mentioned that back about nine years ago a new church formed in the garage of a family's house and from there it grew large, so fast that three churches in our area have all but closed their doors. One, which use to number over 500 in attendance and had gone through a turbulent time wherein both the Pastor and the Youth Pastor were caught in indiscretions, caused that church to lose over 150 members. From the time the new church started and the next three years, they were able to influence nearly all of the 150 people (most of whom were workers in their old church) along with their families and in the following three years took an additional 100 folks. Other churches lost families and were left with the elderly folks, two closed their doors, two went from over 100 people attending to less than 50 and we, too, were affected. We were affected so much so that since Andrew, Courtney and Kylie left, we had no children coming at all.

We kept a Sunday School class for 9 to 12 year old going, sometimes with two boys who stayed with their grandparents many weekends would come, but that was it. We haven't seen those two boys since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The sad comment and situation of our church isn't just the loss of many families and most of our workers (teachers and youth leaders as well as the youth themselves), but - and here is the kicker - we haven't used our baptistery since I baptized Andrew and Courtney on September 10, 2017!  Now, 45 months later (3 and three-quarter years) we are filling up the baptistery and that is for the daughter of the last folks to "go under" the water.

I would also point out that we have filled the baptistery with water two times before tomorrow - both for another church that has no baptistery and usually baptizes by sprinkling. That is the Christian Church located catty-cornered and across the street from ours.

Church growth specialists all say that if a church hasn't had a single baptism in three or more years, it's an indication that the church is on death-row. Technically, this baptism doesn't add to our church roles as Kylie, the little 8-year old being baptized tomorrow, will be going back to her home in Florida when this is all over.

Why are she and her family coming all the way up from Florida just to have her baptized? And how did she come to move to Florida? Well, two years into Andrew's billet in Groton, he decided to rotate back to sea duty and had to move to Jacksonville. That was in November, 2019. Courtney's folks are from Binghamton, New York and Andrew's are from Florida.  Kylie has just finished school for the year and is on her way to spend some of the summer with her grandparents in New York, so logistics comes into play here. Courtney's folks, a sister, one of her grandparents and a couple of others in her family are coming down to pick Kylie and her  little sister Addie up in Virginia - after all, it is half way to Florida. The timing of Kylie's baptism corresponds to the timing of her summer vacation, so BINGO!

Now all that means, too, is that we are going to have a number of visitors tomorrow and it is my hope - MY PRAYER that many of our members show up. Last week, we had the worse attendance since I have been the Pastor at Windsor Baptist. It would be both an embarrassment and humiliating if only a handful show up for the occasion. We have advertised it and the word is out in the community as well as on our website and Facebook page. Combine the vast numbers who have left our church in the last eight years with the fact that many of my people are elderly and are either sick, unable to regularly attend or, as in the case of a few, just love to travel, and you get slack attendances for sure.

Courtney and Andrew represent the last couple with kids and under 35 who have left our church - and not for the new church with 350 kids and 100 youth workers and contemporary music and entertainment galore! They stayed with us until the Navy sent them packing.

After Courtney left, I kept her position open for thirteen months! I did the secretary's work as I didn't think I even deserved a secretary. I literally beat myself over the fact that with their move, my church aged twenty years!

Between the summer of 2016 and 2019, several things happened at Windsor Baptist and it was like a chain reaction"

  • In June, 2016, our AWANA's Program for kids ages 3 to 12 stopped for the summer, but it never restarted. A few of our workers just dropped out.
  • In August, 2016 we hosted for the last time, the area Vacation Bible School which used to consist of three churches but since 2015 just two, ours and the Christian Church
  • In October, 2016 our AWANA's Director resigned and left the church over the lack of participation from the adults, none of whom wanted to work with her.
  • In July, 2017 we participated in the last Vacation Bible School with the Christian Church. They had their own for three days in 2019 but we had no children who wanted to participate.
  • In November, 2017, the last of our younger children left the church. We have not had a single child under the age of 9 to come to Sunday School, nor have we even needed a nursery worker.
  • In August, 2018, the church closed the Windsor Baptist Learning Center. Although we had as many as forty children attending there, most were either going to the new church, or not living in the immediate area and a couple were members of the Christian Church. We didn't even have any church members working at the Learning Center, thus there was no connection between the church and the Learning Center.

So, as of 2018, there has not been a youth or children's program for the church. In July of 2018, we had three teenagers to team up with a couple teens from Colosse Baptist Church to go to the Youth Missionary Trip to help repair houses in the western part of the state. The program was called Impact! Virginia and we had teens going every year since 2000. This nineteenth year was the last we would participate.

I spill out my guts here because I really do care for my church, but it is to the place where we are starting to exist against all odds. The building program we have engaged in is our last gasp and we have the money to do it. However, we no longer live in the age of "If you build it, they will come." As our society is becoming less and less Christian, less and less moral, the only way for a church to harness in new and young members is to provide entertainment (or, as I called it, "worshiptainment." with guitars, drums, keyboards, and music straight out of either Nashville or Seattle. I am not sure how many get "saved" or even how many are "saved" at the new church of now nearly 1,000 folks, but one thing is for sure, half the kids in town and a vast number living right outside of town go there and they are having the time of their lives.

If we only had a few of their workers. If we only had a couple of their 21 guitarists, or one of their five drummers, or one of their several keyboardists, then maybe we can offer something to the Courtney and Andrews of the community. Maybe we could have a class and several activities for the Kylies around the neighborhood. If only I had a few willing workers.

I guess tomorrow's blog will truly boil down to tears and rants or praise and thankfulness. Maybe it will be a mixed bag. It will be a glorious day for the Freeman's and their extended family. I just hope the Windsor Baptist Church Family doesn't disappoint.

I know I shouldn't talk the way I have been in this missive. I have to get my concerns off of my chest. This is the only avenue in which I can effectively do it. I mean, I can spend $150 a pop and spill my guts to a counselor/shrink. I can talk about it to the two or three closest preacher friends I have - but they are not good at giving advice and not longsuffering for my conversation. My wife listen's a little but doesn't know how to give the proper consolation. It usually turns out to be something like: "Why don't you go online and apply for one of the I.T. positions at the hospital?" or "Maybe you should consider taking on a different job in a field that interests you." She means well, but she doesn't help. My concerns don't find a solution in quitting what I am doing and moving on away from Windsor Baptist. The low moments of my pastorate and the many defeats will follow me where ever I go.

What do I do when I need to let it all out and voice my troubles? I go out to Janice's garden where my beloved Princess was laid to rest and I talk with her. Just like when she was alive, she always listens. Oh, and by the way. She died during that two year period 2016-2018. She left me on September 16, 2016 and were it not for Reggie, I would truly be wandering aimlessly into the future.

I am truly looking forward to baptizing Kylie tomorrow. I am not looking forward to any let-downs. Pray that I will have, and the church will have a fine day. I know the Freeman's will.

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Blogging

Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.