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In recent months there have been a number of articles in major national publications about the effects of the pandemic on churches.  Particularly how difficult this time has been for many congregations and clergy.  Churches struggling and closing.  Pastor’s burning out, retiring and resigning.  I see some of that reflected as well in the posts of some of my clergy friends on Facebook.

Fortunately, this is not the experience we’ve had here at First Central.  Yes, this pandemic has been difficult.  We have scars to prove it.

But we’ve also come through these two years in good shape.  The success of our capital campaign fundraising, which we will celebrate in a few minutes is among the most noticeable examples.

One reason we’ve done well is that we were in a strong place when this all began.  We were just about to launch the capital campaign then because we had ideas for ministry we wanted to implement.  Our church was actively engaged in all sorts of outreach and ministry, touching the lives of people.  We had good resources for supporting one another.  Our finances were also strong entering into this pandemic.  And we were in the process of organizing a leadership retreat to think even more strategically about how to do ministry in the present moment.

Another reason we fared well was the leadership we had.  Laura Mitchell was the perfect person for these last two years.  I know they weren’t what she had expected, but she has been the most hands-on of moderators making sure that we were doing our best to bring worship and care to people while still addressing the major issues of our time, including her leadership on our anti-racism initiatives.

And so many other people stepped up to help with their expertise in infectious disease, their technical know-how, baking bread, teaching Vacation Bible School, managing building projects, and more.

We fared well because you stayed engaged.  Participating remotely, checking on one another, contributing funds.

And so we rejoice.

And we know that this next year there will be plenty to do.  Our building projects will move into a design stage and we dream of all the ways we can more effectively steward this building for ministry to our community.  We need to rethink educational programming.  It’s not clear that going to back to exactly what we had is what will work going forward.  And that’s going to be true of lots of aspects of church ministry.  One reason so many churches are struggling is that now calls for innovations and many churches aren’t great at that.  What all do we need to restore?  But what do we need to renew?  To rethink?

Those questions and their answers will occupy us for a while.

And all in the context of the increasing pace at which the neighborhood around us is changing.  And will keep changing, particularly as Mutual moves and if the streetcar is built.

This is a time for vision, a time for mission, a time for both dreaming and doing.  So, let’s do it!


421 South 36th Street, Omaha Nebraska, 68131
(Located at the corner of 36th and Harney Streets)






First Central Congregational Church