This will be my last blog post as your associate pastor at St. Andrew’s. It is bittersweet to write. It was quite the adventure over the past year, and I pray that you garner every joyful memory as a blessing. The one consistent thing that we experienced over this past year was change and newness. I pray that you find rest under the protection of God and seek strength there. It has been an honor to serve you at this time. Even though it was short and, at times, chaotic, the relationships I formed and the lessons I learned are priceless.
As your pastor, I want you to remember a few things that I sought to teach. Firstly, God will never let you be. As we see in scripture, time and again, God actively participates in history. He forms relationships with matriarchs and patriarchs. God rescues and parents his people so that they may bring hope to the world. God cares for the orphan, widow, and the foreigner. And God empowers the least likely as leaders to humble our righteous egos. As seen in the actions of Jesus, God becomes the key to our salvation from sin. Further, God, as Holy Spirit, empowers and invites us to help bring transformation to the rest of the world.
Secondly, faith is not a magic ticket into heaven; it is a way of life. The gospel of John reminds us of the work of the Holy Spirit. It lives in us, it sanctifies us, it tells us of Jesus’ teachings, and instructs us in our current time. (John 16:7-15) We must be willing to continue to learn from different points of view. We must immerse ourselves in scripture study and private prayer, and come together to worship and serve one another. That means older folks, listen to your younger folks because they are your mentors in new seasons. That means younger folks look to the older generation because they have a wealth of wisdom, experience, and tradition to mentor and support you as you grow in faith and maturity. Engage in all forms of faith in life. Remember the teachings of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8, 7:13-22, 4:9-12). Sing praises and be a source of joy when appropriate. Sit with and process heavy burdens, loss, and the effects of sin when offering lament. Remember that we are stronger together. Also, practice lament! Do not fall into the mindset that you must be happy if you are a follower of Jesus. Take the time to process negative feelings, grow in self-awareness, seek the right type of help, and do it all in an attitude of prayer. Finding care for mental health is not separate from your life of faith because God created you as a whole person.
Finally, remember our faith is a practical one. John Wesley gives it to us straight. 1 Do no harm. 2 Do all the good you can. 3 Stay in love with God. I like to think of it as putting hands and feet to your prayers in a spirit of worship. We are called not just to pray for peace and justice, but to actively make it a reality. I encourage you to look over the membership vows, the baptismal covenant, and the prayers we say during communion. Have them be a guide and lens as you discern the Holy Spirit working around you. Beloved, I hope you hold these teachings to heart and grow in the likeness of Christ with confidence and with a sense of adventure.
Transitions in the United Methodist Church are not new for pastors or congregations. But I must recognize that this is not a normal transition. Because of COVID-19, we are denied our usual goodbye practices. At some point, we will be able to say goodbye, laugh, and say our thanks over a meal face to face. Until then, know that I am still in town and will be working to foster community-based ministries and Fresh Expressions. I am always open for coffee and lunch meetups. This has been a tough article to write because I will miss you dearly, and my house is in moving disarray. The room I am sitting in is filled with boxes, and childish thoughts of constructing a fort flit across my mind as I write this. May the image of blanket forts bring many smiles and memories to your day! With that, may you be well in health, spirit, and mind!
God keep you,