Earlier this month I had the privilege of spending a weekend at Walker Creek Ranch. On Sunday morning I was walking with my cup of tea toward the next activity and caught sight of a mule deer standing in the tall grass on a hill behind one of the buildings. The deer heard me before I saw her, and she startled but did not run. Several moments passed as we regarded each other. While deer are likely used to human activity on the ranch, she still had to assess whether or not I was a threat. I don’t know how to make a steaming mug of tea look small and non-threatening while still sipping on it, but I did my best.
After a few minutes she bent her head and continued eating. It was a peaceful scene. Golden rolling hills, the rising sun glistening off the dew of the grass and trees, mist rising off the ground, and a single deer munching quietly on a hillside. It was also a rare scene. In our busyness and preoccupation we humans rarely have the time or the awareness to notice or enjoy such things.
After a moment, I saw a second deer stand that had been there all along, sitting hidden in the tall grass. By this time I had beckoned over other passers-by to see the deer, and a small group of us stood watching them. Finally, a third came bounding through the grass to join the other two, jumping and trying to play. This seemed to break their thrall, and they all ran together through the camp, disappearing into the trees on the other side. If I had followed my initial feelings—my desire to get closer and pet the deer—I would have scared her away and missed seeing the other two. Also, the moment would not have lasted long enough for other people to enjoy. Worse still, I probably would have spilled my tea.
The theme of the weekend was Love, and I thought of how during wedding homilies I remind the couple that in the Bible, Love is a verb, an action. It is how we behave toward one another, regardless of what emotions may come, and goes as quickly as flighty deer. It is a conscious choice to be still, to be non-threatening, to give space, to serve, to listen, to give, regardless of how you may be feeling in the moment.
This past month at FCC San Rafael I have sat in many meetings with different ministry teams and learned about all of the different ways our church serves its community, how many lives it touches. (Read more . . .)
Sunday August 24 marked a happy milestone for FCCSR, as Rev. Tracy Barnowe stepped into the pulpit for the first time as our new settled Pastor. There will be a formal installation service sometime this fall, but Pastor Tracy hit the ground running. She centered the service around blessing the large number of students in our congregation, from kindergarten to college, as they return to their studies. Then she preached on an unexpected and challenging interpretation of the Golden Rule.
Here’s an innovation: Pastor Tracy and the Ministry Board have planned a series of special worship events for this fall and published them in a handy trifold brochure. The idea is to keep doing this as we work through the church year. This way, both members and visitors will know what to expect and can plan ahead.
Sunday August 3 was a day of bittersweet celebration: The bitterness was having to say goodbye to Rev. Ken Barnes, our Interim Minister for the past two years. In that time, Ken had become much more than an “Interim.” He had become a dear friend and a trusted leader of our community. He will be remembered fondly for many years to come.
The sweetness was that he is leaving because he has completed his mission - – in spectacular fashion. He helped us come together and heal after a very difficult time in our church’s history. Then, he led us in re-examining who we are and what we want to be as a church. Finally, with our confidence restored, he helped us launch a search process that culminated in late June with our decision to call Rev. Tracy Barnowe as our next settled Pastor.
The service started with our presentation to Ken of a beautiful stole depicting the two windows – “Dove” and “Earth” – that define our sanctuary. Special kudos to Judy Girard for her masterful artistry in creating this heartfelt gift.
Next Ken preached a sermon about the role of Communion as an act of shared community, illustrated, as always, with stories from his life in ministry. (Click here to hear.) Then we formed our usual family circle to celebrate communion, and it took some creative squeezing to fit in everyone from the day’s overflowing congregation.
Finally, we performed a simple litany of closure and presented Ken with a collection of individual notes of appreciation from us all.
On June 29, our members enthusiastically approved the choice of Rev. Tracy Barnowe as the next settled Pastor of FCCSR. Pastor Tracy was recommended by our Search Committee after a process that started exactly a year earlier with a congregational “Day of Discovery,” where we used the Appreciative Inquiry process to take a fresh, thoughtful look at the kind of church we want to be.
The service on June 29 capped a week of small group meetings and a pot-luck dinner, all intended to give folks a chance to meet Pastor Tracy informally before hearing her preach her candidate sermon. (Click here to listen to that sermon, and click here to view more pictures from candidate weekend.)
About Our New Pastor
Rev. Tracy Barnowe has two Bachelor’s Degrees, one in French and the other in Russian with a minor in Spanish. She was a high school teacher prior to completing a Master of Divinity at Pacific School of Religion and a Maser of Arts in Biblical Studies: Old Testament from the Graduate Theological Union. She has been serving as the Interim Minister and Redeveloper at the Campbell, CA United Church of Christ since 2012.
Tracy has served several churches in northern California as Director of Family and Spiritual Director of Youth Ministries. She has wide experience in church revitalization and growth, leading several congregations through the redevelopment visioning process and development of strategic plans for growth. Course work in the areas of outreach, newcomer attraction and retention, and youth ministries have been of special focus for her.
Tracy has a particular gift for working with children and youth. Some of her special touches have been involving some of the older church members in sharing with the children their own personal stories of faith and church experiences from their youth as well as In her current church, she is one of the facilitators for OWL – Our Whole Lives, a curriculum in which parents and 7th-12th graders explore issues of self worth, responsibility, justice, and inclusivity. Prior to Sunday service, the children and youth join her for a blessing and prayer so they know they are a special part of the congregation.
In her Statement of Ministry, Tracy shared three things that she loves most about the ministry:
- Helping God grow a church
- Watching people discover the joy of discipleship
- Heaven on Earth
She says that these things are like chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter. Individually they all work well, but put them together and you have something spectacular.
We all look forward to spectacular combinations of these ingredients in our ministry together at First Congregational Church of San Rafael.
If you’ve been following the process, you know that a key step in our search is the preparation of a “Local Church Profile” (aka “The world’s Longest Want Ad.”) This is a detailed write-up of who we are as a church, where we’re going, and what we’re looking for in our next pastor.
Click here to read the Profile online or to download your own copy.
This profile is sent to any qualified candidate who is interested in our opening. If, after reading all about us, they still think we’d be a good fit, they ask the our Conference office to send their “Pastoral Profile” –essentially a very long, probing resumé — to the Search Committee. That’s when the search process gets exciting, but, for all the obvious reasons, that’s also when confidentiality is essential, so the Committee will only be able to share to most general sort of information on what they’re doing.
(A note to possible candidates: You should know this already, but initial contact and submission of your profile MUST be through the Conference office. Contact Tammy Nelson, Search Coodinator at NCNC-UCC with any questions.)