Dear Family and Friends of St. Johannes!
It is with sadness that I write this month’s newsletter article. As most of you know by now, our Council terminated George Hiatt’s contract as Organist and Choir Director. Our Council agonized over this most unfortunate circumstance. We entered this discussion with deliberate prayer and decision. We also conferred with our SC Synod Bishop to seek his council and guidance. Needless to say, this was and continues to be an emotional and painful situation for each Council member and certainly for the members of our wonderful congregation.
I understand your pain as members. George was our organist for about 15 years. He provided us with inspirational music, prepared our choir for weekly performances, played the organ for our weddings, funerals and special liturgical services during his tenure. To some degree, George’s departure is similar to a divorce. Our hearts ache with this separation and we grieve. Certainly George will be missed, and we wish him the very best!
As a congregation, I respectfully remind you that there is a difference between the business of the church and the ministry of the church. The hiring and termination of staff is not a congregation-wide issue. We respect George’s rights in many ways, including that of complying with federal law that binds us from detailing reasons for termination. I am aware of some misinformation that is being passed around in the absence of Council legally being able to detail the reasons for the termination. This is unfortunate because it has led some of you to incorrect conclusions and conversation that hurts the innocent.
I encourage you to remember the legacy that was left by George. Hold onto the beautiful memories you have of George at St. Johannes. We have a wonderful congregation with a long history of liturgical Christian worship and service to its parishioners and the Ansonborough Community of Charleston.
Please convey to each other that St. Johannes will continue serving its parishioners, its community and all who choose to enter our doors and affiliate with us. We are an inclusive church that is committed to continuing a ministry of Word and Sacrament with worshipful music and service opportunities.
As you know, no one human comprises the church but it is the collective gathering of God’s people that enables us to worship together as the body of Christ. Please do not let misinformation and malicious conversation rob you of your love for each other or the future of St. Johannes. No one likes change but change happens.
I am fully committed to nurturing the living, caring for the sick and injured, and honoring the dead. So the opportunities above, at St. Johannes, will continue as a new music program emerges to support the worship of Christ and the people who gather weekly. I (we) invite all our members to continue this journey with us… for the posterity of St. Johannes and for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can move on and forward, like with a divorce, if we stand together and trust our Council who had to make a hard decision. The Council serves as our elected leaders to represent you and make decisions on behalf of you, the church. Sometimes those decisions are painful.
Please know that each of you are welcome to continue supporting and attending your church while enjoying our Lutheran liturgical worship and music, your beautiful memories and our current families who gather each Sunday at St. Johannes... for Word and Sacrament.
I pray God will grant us healing and mend our broken hearts so we can move forward together.
May God’s peace be with you!
Pastor Alvin Shrum