New beginnings

On Easter Sunday 2014 by unanimous vote of the congregation I got elected to be the new pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Rosenberg. For the following five years we have done some great things together. We started a new Children Church’s program, we took on the sole responsibility for Vacation Bible School which we used to share with our Presbyterian and Brethren friends. We invited the German language community to a variety of annual events. Family ministry expanded its outreach activity by not only bringing communion to members in long-term care facilities but actually hosting all-facility worship services there. I was blessed to baptize and confirm your children, to get couples started into their married lives, and to lead funerals for those whose time had come. There has been some amazing forward movement and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve alongside all of y’all here for five years.

Honestly, we have not sustained our progress over the last couple of years. That’s why I decided to step aside. St. John’s responds well to new pastoral leadership coming in. You are good at building excitement about a fresh start. I hope you will do that again and make it to the next level in your congregational development. There was a reason church council decided to publish my letter of resignation. We wanted to get ahead of the rumor mill. That worked for the most part. The top two most awkward rumors that have come to my attention since were:

– St. John’s is closing its doors
– Rev. Haas is going back to Germany

I don’t have that kind of power. My resignation can hardly shut down a congregation that has existed since 1941. Quite the opposite: Your church leadership is hard at work coordinating with the Houston Association as well as the South Central Conference to plot a path into a prosperous future for this congregation. I am not going anywhere but I am delighted that I have the opportunity to continue ministry locally as a full-time chaplain for Compassus Hospice. Mirjam continues her thriving pastorate at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Needville, and our kids get to keep their familiar environment of home, neighborhood, school, and sports.

I have consistently received a lot of praise for my weekly reflections. I will miss writing them. This is my last one for St. John’s. The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.


Where is your Ground Zero?

Yesterday was one of those days where we had the TV turned to the news for hours. The cathedral of Notre Dame was engulfed in flames. We visited just this past summer and now the place is in ruins. Glued to the TV, I was taken back to September 11, 2001. Is this a terrorist attack? If so, was there going to be a follow up attack? Is the Eiffel Tower next? None of that that happened. Nobody claimed responsibility. While I’m writing these lines, everything points toward an accident.

Somehow this fire struck a nerve, not only with me but at least the people I am connected to on social media. #NotreDame was trending on Twitter and still is. What is so important about this church in a country half a globe away? Three churches burnt much closer to home “on March 26, April 2 and April 4. The first was at St. Mary Baptist Church in the Port Barre; the two others were at Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the small city of Opelousas, the parish seat. “

More than anything, France, with its history of absolute monarchy, perfected the centralization of state power, authority and administration. Everything in France focuses on Paris. Wherever you drive on French highways, signs will show you the distance to Paris. That’s where Notre Dame plays an even more special role. The precise point the distance is measured from is called “Kilometre Zero ” and it is located right in front of the entrance of Notre Dame Cathedrale.

Notre Dame is literally Ground Zero. So it’s okay to leave the TV on for longer than usual. But it raises an important question: Where is your Ground Zero? It’s good to know that about yourself. The three churches that burnt in Louisiana where “black” churches that were specifically targeted by a racist. This injustice cries to the heavens. Where the margins of justice are violated, people cry out. When orientation gets lost, like the one point an entire era focused on, people get irritated. Those so-called world affairs always have a deeply personal effect. They trigger something in you and me and I invite you to think that through and talk about it.