Bethany in The Dalles and Concordia in Hood River have shared a pastor for many years now, each having a full schedule of church activities on Sunday morning. The two congregations are thirty minutes apart, about 25 miles, mostly on Interstate 84. As a compromise, the pastor is not present at either church during Sunday School or Bible class time. He has only been able to be present for the Divine Service. If there are other special activities that morning he has missed them entirely at Concordia in Hood River, barely greeting any new guests before jetting off to The Dalles for the second Divine Service of the day. Special activities at Bethany have often been after church, so that he is able to participate. This has given Bethany an advantage in having the pastor available for such things, but has still made it impossible to attend a Sunday morning Bible class with the pastor, or to have him available during Sunday School.
All members of both congregations were invited to two forums in order to discuss the situation and look for ways to improve it. By the end of the second forum, the group resolved by consensus to recommend a course of action to both churches. Each church would then have to decide whether to take the recommendation according to its own decision-making process.
The recommendation is to separate the schedules of the two congregations entirely, using both morning and afternoon on Sunday. For three months, we will try having Bethany meet in the morning and Concordia in the afternoon. Then, for three more months, we will reverse the schedule. After the six-month trial period is finished, we will decide together how we want to proceed.
Both congregations adopted the proposal, and the first Sunday for trying it out is May 1. Keep an eye on the church calendar or on the bulletin announcements, so that you will know of any scheduling tweaks. To begin with, we'll have Bethany's schedule moved ahead by a half hour (to begin at 9 AM with the Sunday School opening devotion), and Concordia's schedule beginning at 1:30 PM with the Divine Service. Beginning in August, Concordia's service will return to 9 AM with Bible class at 10:15, while Bethany's Bible class will be at 1:15 with the Divine Service at 2:30 PM.
Our forum also included in its recommendation that the pastor be allowed family time on Tuesday as well as Monday. This time is usually most conveniently taken on Tuesday morning, since some of our regular events are scheduled on Tuesday evening.
We thank God for His help in arriving at this recommendation and adopting it, and we ask that He would bless its implementation to the benefit of our congregations and all our members.