Touché – May 30, 2014
Posted on May 30, 2014 by under Touché,

Re: A Church Planting Odyssey

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20, 21)

Seven years ago, Mark Mast moved from Michigan to begin planting churches in the Hudson Valley.  Our vision was to plant fifteen churches in fifteen years and we began with Journey out at Tymor Park on Easter of 2008.  It has been an amazing odyssey since then, not what we asked or imagined, but more than we could have asked or imagined.  Last week our Odyssey service, a church with people that have special needs, had more in attendance than our Foundations service at Hopewell; this also happened a couple of times this spring.  The potential for Odyssey to continue to grow in the Hudson Valley is great.  We have partnered with Arlington Reformed Church in launching Randy Prentiss into a revitalization effort there, and we will install Steve Dambra as leader of the Beacon Reformed Church next Sunday.  Both stories are not what we expected, but they are bringing new hope to some Hudson Valley Reformed Churches.  Mark also leads a non-traditional church called Common Ground where a small group of people meet at a coffee shop in Beacon. A youth group has formed from that ministry that is having an impact on Beacon.  Our church planting movement is not what we imagined, but it is bringing glory to God in amazing ways.

During this time, Hopewell has stagnated.  We have not seen significant growth in the mother church that has supported this planting financially.  We sent some people out to work and blessed these churches but, while attendance has stayed steady, we have recently been seeing a drop in our Foundations service.  We have seen declines in giving in recent years and, while the generous donation of the Merillat house has kept us in the black, we are seeing that money come to an end.  Odyssey and Journey were started with grants from the synod and the greater church, but we have not received any new grant money since those first grants were written.  It is clear that some of our outreach needs to happen in Hopewell Junction. The message that comes clear from my sabbatical, and from this past year, is a message of evangelism here in Hopewell, as we look to go deeper and wider in Hopewell Junction.

This week members of the congregation received a letter from Mark.  The letter points to the decision by consistory to not include the position of Pastor for Outreach and Mission in our 2014-2015 budget that begins in October.  Mark is looking for a pastoral position in the Hudson Valley that will allow leadership at Odyssey and Common Ground to continue.  That is our best hope right now, however, Consistory has agreed to support Mark through his transition to a new calling. Consistory has committed itself to the future of Odyssey as well, in whatever ways things unfold in the near future and beyond.  Right now we are praying and looking forward to what God will do in this transition.

In Hope,