Deerfield pastor exchange with British pastor enlightening for all
Pastor Brian Roots poses for a portrait at Christ United Methodist Church on Dec. 20 in Deerfield. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 31, 2012 9:52AM
DEERFIELD — Brian Roots has had a rare opportunity to switch lives with someone for six weeks.
Roots, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church of Deerfield, participated in a Ministerial Exchange Program this summer and switched churches with a British pastor. Roots said the experience was more than just playing tourist for six weeks — it was one of spiritual development, culture and understanding. Now, he plans to integrate some of his experiences into his ministry at Christ UMC.
Q: When did you participate in the exchange and where did you go?
A: My wife and I went to England in late June and returned in late August. We spent two weeks site seeing in London and Scotland before beginning the exchange in Bacup, England. Bacup is a small post-industrial town about 25 miles north of Manchester in the northwest quadrant of England.
Q: With whom did you exchange churches?
A: My exchange partner was the Rev. Jan Nendick.
Q: What was the most compelling part of your experience?
A: It was great to step right into another pastor’s ministry and get to experience life in another country. My wife Ruth and I lived in Jan’s home, drove Jan’s car and I performed Jan’s pastoral duties as best as I was able. Jan, of course, did the same thing here in Deerfield. This experience was so rewarding because we were immersed in another country and culture in a much deeper way than simply traveling as a tourist. People were happy to take us to places they enjoyed so our visit had a very personal touch. We have made friends in Bacup and hope to get back to see them again.
Q: What was the greatest difference you noticed between the two churches?
A: In England Methodist churches are linked together much more closely than they are in the United States. The church in Bacup was one of seven in a “circuit.” In the six weeks I was in Bacup, I preached in all seven churches at least one time. In the circuit I was a part of, the churches are close together. I never had to drive more than eight miles to go to any of the churches. However, I learned that one circuit in a more rural area of England had churches 60 or 70 miles apart. I recognized both advantages and disadvantages to their system. In the circuit system, it is great to share your ministry with colleagues. But that structure works against innovation and change because the pastor is only at the same church every three weeks or so.
Q: How did your visiting pastor enjoy his/her experience with Christ UMC?
A: Jan had a great time. She came with her daughter Vickie and people here were happy to show them around. I know they got to a Cubs game, several Chicago museums, a Millennium Park concert in Chicago, a Ravinia concert and more. We have a great place to live here and I was grateful to the people of Christ United Methodist Church for helping Jan have such a wonderful time.
Q: Was your congregation open to the experience?
A: Yes they were. People thought it sounded good when I presented the idea but afterward they were even more positive. I was even encouraged to do it again!
Q: What lessons did you take back from the experience?
A: Personally it has changed the way I look at travel. The exchange was so much more rewarding than being a tourist. I will continue to look for opportunities to live and work with people in different countries and cultures. I would rather go to one location, in Europe for example, and work as a volunteer for six weeks than spend that time on a tour. Getting to know the people of one location is far more interesting and inspiring than seeing lots of sights.
Q: How has this experience benefitted you spiritually?
A: I developed a greater appreciation for the history of the Methodist Church. The Methodist Churches began “Sunday Schools” that taught reading, writing and arithmetic to factory workers who spent all week at work. One church I visited in Heptonstall had 300 people attending worship and 1,000 attending the Sunday school that ran back in the 1780s. That heritage of working for the benefit of the poor is inspiring to me and speaks to what we are called as a church to do in the Chicago area today. The time away was rejuvenating emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. I came back with greater energy and enthusiasm for what we are doing here in Deerfield.
Q: Has the experience impacted your church for the better?
A: Yes. The most concrete benefit in addition to the new friendships that were made is the establishment of a new program. In England, they have an after school program for young families called “Messy Church.” The churches provide families and opportunity to eat, play games, do crafts and worship together in a very informal way. We are adapting the program and giving it a try here at Christ UMC.