By now many of you know that I have been appointed to become the next pastor at Community United Methodist Church in North Muskegon, Michigan, effective July 1. The leaders of our conference decided that my gifts are needed there. The people there are going through some grief at losing the pastor who has led them and loved them for years. They are anxious to find out how the church will be with a new pastor. You may have the same anxieties. Those anxieties are good, because they are expressions of your love for your church, and also the love that you have shown to me over our eight years together.
I have plenty of anxieties myself, that draw me into prayer! What conflicts will there be? Will they accept and love me as the people in Albion have? Do I have the gifts they need? And I am a little anxious for you, because I love you and I want the best for you. I want you to flourish and find great new directions with your new pastor. But I know that in all changes, God accompanies us and shines a light to help us know the way. Here is what I pray for you: that you will “Let your light so shine before people that they see your good works, and give glory to God in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Within my story, my eight years in Albion have been a joyful chapter. You have allowed me to be myself, and have hardly complained at all! Promise me that you will share the same love and acceptance with the person who follows me. Love and acceptance are your great gifts as a congregation.
When I leave Albion, I will be busy serving another church, and they will deserve their new pastor’s love and attention. At the same time, your new pastor will be working to get to know you, and to build trusting relationships with you. That’s why, once I leave, I won’t be coming back to do funerals, weddings, or baptisms. That will be someone else’s job. I won’t be available to you for counseling or advice. I promise you it’s the best way. I may be able on rare occasions to make it back to sit in the congregation for a funeral or the like, but it won’t be as pastor. And if you’re up that way, please stop in and say hi!
In the meantime, we have some months together for getting used to the idea–and I have some months to get packed! My expectation is that after a few months of knowing I’m leaving, you’ll be ready to say hello to your new pastor. I hope it’ll be possible to share a worship service together, as I was able to do with Dwayne before me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are always in my prayers.