Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Pending approval of the congregation on December 4th and Committee on Ministry December 6th, I will be leaving my position as co-pastor of United Presbyterian Church at the end of this year. Pending approval, Andy will be moving up to full time Solo Pastor/Head of Staff here at UPC. Though I currently do not have a call to which I am going, I will continue to be active in "church work" through my increasingly demanding committee involvement, and in supply preaching. For the past year I have been serving on a General Assembly Special Committee to Study the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century. I am also on the writing and editing teams for our final paper, which will be submitted by the end of February. I have also been serving on the Committee on Ministry, and I look forward to continuing that work and strengthening my connections as liaison to five churches in the presbytery. Finally, I have recently agreed to chair a small committee to write a new manual of operations for the presbytery and provide guidelines for congregational bylaws and other policies, a project that will demand more of my time after the first of the year, as well. I also anticipate supply preaching as often as I am needed, and look forward to getting to know more churches within the presbytery through that, as well. I will be searching for new work in the area or new contract work that can be done from home, and I pray that something opens up that will help to pay the bills and be vocationally engaging as well.

Transitions are always difficult, and though I enter this transition with many unknowns, I also feel strongly that this is the right move to be making at this time, and that it is God-led. In spite of facing a reduced household income and voluntary unemployment in a poor job market, I have peace that God will provide, and that this season of transition will lead to a new season of growth and development for me and for Andy, and, I pray, for the church. Prayers are always appreciated!

Below is my final pastor's note to the congregation. I close this note with a quote from Julian of Norwich: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." Amen.

            In this season of Thanksgiving, it is with profound gratitude that I reflect on the three years that Andy and I have had in ministry here at United Presbyterian Church. To say that we are thankful – that I am thankful – for the opportunity to have served here, to get to know and love each of you and this community of faith, doesn’t do justice to my gratitude. I am taking the privilege of writing this, my final pastor’s note to UPC, to express my love for you, and my gratitude for all that God has done and is continuing to do in and through this particular faith community. I know that the news of my departure as co-pastor has come as a surprise. This decision was made after a long period of prayer and discernment, and though it is a deep loss and sadness for me to leave, as well, I also believe that this is God’s leading. I am happy to talk more about this in person with anyone who wants to do so in this final month.
This brings all of us to a time of transition. Transitions by their nature are difficult. They can be divisive. I pray that, through this transition, the unity of the Holy Spirit would rule the hearts and minds of this community of faith. As Paul instructs the church in Rome, “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” (Rom. 12:10)
Transitions also bring opportunities for growth. I believe that this is an opportunity for growth for all of us, if we can accept and embrace it. Transitions remind us that the ground we think is solid beneath our feet is actually sinking sand, unless we are standing on Christ, the solid rock, to borrow words from the old hymn. Transitions have a way of pointing out where we’ve been standing, and upon what we’ve been relying. They can be a gentle, or sometimes not so gentle reminder to put our faith and trust in God.
As we find ourselves now in this season of Advent, we are in a liturgical season of waiting, and anticipation. We are reminded of the promises that God has made to God’s people throughout the ages – promises of light in the darkness, comfort in the midst of exile, healing in places of brokenness, and a final reign of justice and peace. God’s faithfulness is promised to all generations, and I am confident that God will faithfully lead this church through this transition and into new paths of ministry. We all must wait to see what God has in store for us, but my prayer is that we all turn to God in this time, to discern where God’s wisdom and Spirit will lead us, to be transformed into the people of God that we were created to be.
I am profoundly grateful that God brought us here three years ago to join in ministry with this church. I love this church, and I love each of you dearly, and you will always be close in my heart and prayers. I am thankful for the risk you took in calling us here, for the ways in which you have loved and supported us in our first call to ministry, helping to train us in ministry, giving us grace to fail and love along the way. For all that has been, I say Amen!
As I prepare to say my goodbyes as your pastor, I also want to charge each of you first and foremost to love the Lord your God with every fiber of your being, to love and pray for each other, and to continue to love and pray for Andy as your pastor. I believe that God is doing great things in and through this church. I pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to move mightily in this community of faith, that this Body of Christ gathered by God will be an exhibition of the kingdom of God here in Harrodsburg, Mercer County, and beyond.
I close with this benediction from Paul to the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Amen.

Grace and Peace,