FCC Fred Lyon 20190619_112740_web
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Pastor Fred Lyon leaves FCC after 9 years as leader

As the poet Robert Burns noted in his oft-quoted “To a Mouse,” “foresight may be vain.”

So it proved for Fred Lyon, who provided a full year’s notice of his impending departure from Flossmoor Community Church. The process of finding his replacement and planning the transition was 11 months along when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all plans.

Former FCC Pastor Fred Lyon. (Provided photo)

The governor’s stay-at-home executive order forced the closure of the church and a move to alternative methods of worship and of completing the leadership transition.

Lyon credits the church staff with pivoting quickly to keep serving the congregation while the building was closed and routines disrupted.

“The staff pulled together to make sure the congregation still felt they were actively part of a church,” he said, noting that a popular saying in these times seemed to fit their approach: “The church is not closed. The church building is.”

That meant quickly revising the church website to serve as the primary venue for the congregation. It meant recording services, devotionals and educational presentations that could be delivered on the web. 

Lyon delivered his last sermon on April 19 by video, and afterward, he and his wife, Jan Edmiston, went outside the church for a “Drive Bye Bye,” a parade of about 200 vehicles with members of the church wishing him well. 

It wasn’t the send-off he had envisioned, but it was touching nevertheless, he said.

FCC has a long history of social service, and that tradition continued under Lyon’s leadership.

Existing programs, like PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) continued, and the congregation initiated a number of new programs, too.

One was the adoption of a Syrian refugee family in November 2016 during a time when immigration policy had become an intense controversy in the nation. 

Another program was the establishment, also in 2016, of Lighthouse, an organization that supports LGBTQ youth. 

Lyon said Lighthouse was born in a manner typical to the congregation and to his leadership style. Let good ideas flourish. 

He and youth pastor Allison Billings were discussing how to reach and serve LGBTQ youth when two members of the congregation, Valerie Litchfield and Stephanie Wright, approached him with the same idea. 

“It was a classic example of somebody coming up with a good idea and the energy to do it,” he said. His role was to say, “Go for it” and provide support.

Lyon gave credit to everyone around him for the congregation’s tendency to pursue projects like that. The congregation often brings ideas. The governing board and staff provide support.

“I never had a situation where the governing board shot down a good idea for a ministry,” he said.

He said the church is also well-served by a tendency to look to the future, and that will serve the congregation well.

“In churchworld, there’s been a lot of talk since the late 1990s of the importance of being a 21st century church. We’re 20 years into the 21st century. It’s really time to start anticipating being a mid-21st century church.”

Although the pandemic has been disruptive, he said it might also be an opportunity for the church. 

The shift to digital methods of worship and service is something he thinks might continue, even after meeting in person resumes. The new role of those tools might enable the church to meet the needs of people who are not part of the traditional church rituals.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody, but if we don’t take the opportunity to learn from it, having our priorities change, that would be a shame,” he said. 

He noted the process is not unfamiliar to the faithful.

“The church has historically had that happen. There were exile periods in the Bible where people went through difficult times.”

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