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Seven Years

By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Nov 09 in Musings
I’ve now been the Senior Pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian for seven years. Seven years.
That’s a very biblical number. Jacob served Laban for seven years to get Rachel as a wife, but then was tricked into serving seven more and ended up with two wives! Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream about seven good years and seven years of famine. Israel was instructed to let the land rest (sabbath) every seven years. There was to be a special time every seventh year, when debts were canceled and slaves given their freedom. Seven years.
 Seven years ago, Anne and I were more than a little shell-shocked over the idea that God was calling us to Southern California and away from stable, familiar territory. We drove over the hill on the 101 and saw the sign: Hollywood Next 7 Exits.  “Toto,” we thought, “we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.” Or Washington.

This actually isn’t a “State of the Union” article, just a few stray thoughts on these seven years. Our lives have changed. All our kids graduated from college, with two settled on the East Coast and one in Seattle. Our parents are aging and we just lost my dad. We hit our 35th wedding anniversary. As empty nesters, we have time to take full advantage of beaches, museums, ballgames, concerts and art galleries in this big international city. We’ve made many friends, both inside and outside the church, and those relationships are an immense blessing.

Hollywood Presbyterian has also changed. Our staff is a dramatically different group of people than when I first arrived. We have significantly upped our urban ministry involvement in the city. There have been any number of opportunities to knit us together as a community- retreats, days in Griffith Park, small groups, revamped Annual Meetings and combining worship services. Our congregation looks different as well- many longtime saints have passed away...and many new members, families and babies have been welcomed. We have disagreed about some things but agreed on many more, and hopefully are learning to talk things through rather than protest or storm away. We have vibrant groups of young adults, artists and young marrieds to mix with our heritage of folks who have been the church’s solid backbone for years. The three focus words that became evident my first months here still seem relevant: intergenerational, community, urban.

When I reflect on these seven years, all of the blessings and challenges well up in a complicated mix.  But there is one thing that overshadows it all- worship. This is what God’s people do, in the sanctuary with words and music, and outside it with lives that honor God. We worship. Eugene Peterson once said that the most important thing a pastor gets to do is to stand in front of the congregation every Sunday and say the words “Come, let us worship God together.”  I agree.  I get to do that every week, and it has blessed me immeasurably. Seven years worth.
           
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan

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