Shannon Kershner Letter

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Dear Fourth Presbyterian Church Family and Friends,

Just a short while ago, at their congregational meeting, the Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta called me to be their next pastor. I have accepted that call.

This decision and sharing this news with you comes with a mixture of grief for who and what I am leaving and joyful anticipation for what lies ahead. I will miss working with my dedicated and faithful colleagues. We have experienced so many changes and challenges, and they have taught me much about leadership and collegiality.

I will also miss being a part of Fourth Church’s vibrant worship life. As I have heard from you and experienced myself throughout the last nine years, worship at Fourth Church is nourishing, authentic, and always makes sure to connect with what is going on outside of the sanctuary.

You all know how to “be church” not just on a Sunday morning but each day of your lives. Looking back to the first time I addressed you in March 2014, I deeply appreciate your willingness to be “all in” regarding the group project called church.

You also received my two children with kindness and care. They have really grown up with you, and their worlds expanded robustly through our move to Chicago. Greg also appreciates the ways you welcomed him into Fourth Church’s congregational life and the friendships he has made, as do I.

The decision to accept this call comes out of a season of prayerful discernment into which the conversations with Central Church have led me. Central, like Fourth Church, is a downtown church with a very strong foundation and a rich history, yet it is poised on the edge of a new beginning.

And so are you. I am completely convinced that Fourth Church is in a vital, healthy place with strong, experienced staff and lay leadership to guide your continued ministry.

As I mentioned earlier, the worship life at Fourth Church continues to be vibrant and growing, with a second morning service planned for the fall. Our online community and connections continue to be a vital part of who Fourth Church is. Your commitment to walking alongside our neighbors remains unwavering, whether through Stephen Ministry or Meals Ministry or Tutoring or any number of the other ways in which Fourth Church and Chicago Lights continue to shine as a light in the city. The long-range planning process already underway is itself an invitation into discernment for how you will continue to live out that call into the future.

Indeed, our celebration of volunteers this morning was a profound reminder of the gifts that so many bring to the work of Fourth Presbyterian Church—of the ministry that you all undertake. It is why I have every confidence in your future, one that you can be assured I will be cheering on.

In the days ahead there will be time to say more—and to hear from the Personnel Council as plans unfold for the transition. My last Sunday as your pastor will be Pentecost Sunday, May 28. I will be asking the Fourth Church Session to call a congregational meeting to take place after the 10:00 worship service that day, for the purpose of dissolving our pastoral relationship.

For now I wanted to make sure you heard this news as soon as it happened. And to know that I cannot articulate my deep gratitude for the myriad of ways you have loved me and my family, welcomed us, encouraged us, and been open to us.

I give thanks that I have had opportunity to be a part of this body and to serve alongside you for these past nine years. I cannot wait to see what God will be doing next in this special place with and through you, the amazing people and group project called Fourth Church.

With deep respect and gratitude,

Shannon J. Kershner


Sunday, April 16, 2023

Dear Fellow Fourth Church Members and Friends,

Surprise at the news, gratitude for all Shannon has done for Fourth Church, happiness for her in this new opportunity, sadness at her leaving—all of these feelings have washed over us on the Personnel Council, and we’ve no doubt you are experiencing them as well.

These past nine years in ministry with Shannon have been such a gift to each of us and to Fourth Church! Together this congregation and Shannon have gone from celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Sanctuary on her first day in the Fourth Church pulpit to recently marking our 150th anniversary to embarking on a long-range planning process.

During this season of her leadership Fourth Church formed the Racial Equity Council, undertook a Racial Equity Audit, and has continued the hard and important work of becoming an anti-racist congregation. As a community we adopted five strategic directions to guide our work together.

Shannon has guided us in developing a collaborative budget process and continuing to reduce the draw on our endowment, and she has cultivated increased transparency in communicating with staff, church leaders, and the congregation.

Together we weathered the pandemic, even celebrating Easter 2020 from Shannon’s living room! Having remained together while apart, we returned to worshiping, learning, and sharing fellowship in person with a growing energy and now look forward to an additional in-person service being added to our Sundays in the fall. At the same time we also have developed a robust ministry of livestreaming our worship services, our Noonday Concerts, our Michigan Avenue Forums, and other programming.

And those are only but a few of the many things we celebrate and for which we give thanks as we reflect on the blessing that Shannon’s leadership of Fourth Church has been. While there will never be enough words to express our profound gratitude, in the weeks ahead there will be opportunities to more formally say thank you to Shannon and her family, to congratulate her on this call, and to wish her and Central Presbyterian Church well as they embark on a new chapter together. Planning for those opportunities will begin this week, and we will share details as soon as they are known.

We will also begin preparing for this transition season in our congregation, including assembling a transition team and identifying an interim staffing plan. We will share details about that as well in the coming days and weeks.

Fourth Church has thrived throughout its 150-plus years by, in part, seizing transitions as a time for new growth, vision, and opportunity. We are well positioned to do that yet again, with the strong leadership of current clergy, senior leaders, dedicated staff, and committed volunteers; our long-range planning process underway; and our ministries continuing to connect with and make a difference in the lives of so many, both within our congregation and in the community.

We are in this journey together. For you and, in these days especially, for Shannon we give thanks.

Arlene Faulk, Patsy Habicht, and Jim Kulich
Personnel Council Co-Chairs




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