Beloved Community of Christ,
As a United Methodist pastor, I am committed to itineracy. That is to say: I have promised to move from church-to-church in order to grow the Kingdom of God. Each year the Bishop and cabinet consider my gifts and “growing edges” and consider the gifts and needs of each church in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. The cabinet and bishop, then, relying on prayer and the Holy Spirit match churches and pastors. Itineracy is a process by which the church opens itself to the Holy Spirit and relies upon God, fully, to mold us into the church we are meant to be. This means that I am committed to go where I am sent and to look for God-at-work in each community.
The past year has been unusual as we have known that my appointment would be changing (in some way) after just two years of ministry together in order for the church to move to a part-time pastor. I rejoiced with this community when Rev. Michael Barclay was appointed to this church in January and, now, Bishop Frank Beard has appointed me to serve Abingdon United Methodist Church effective July 1.
Though, I will continue my ministry in this new setting and with a new congregation of United Methodists I find myself emotional as I write this letter. I feel anticipation for the new journey that lies before me, but I feel deeply saddened that this new ministry means leaving a church and community which I love (and takes us further from family).
In both communities there are some changes that will take place over the next few weeks. Our bishop, his cabinet, Rev. Barclay, Rev. Wilson and I are all hard at work to ensure that this transition goes smoothly. More importantly: I am your pastor here and now and will continue to share my enthusiasm as your pastor until my final Sunday on June 9.
I am incredibly proud of our time together. This church has claimed its identity in new ways and rather than languishing in decline this congregation is making choices toward the future! Your leadership made difficult changes while there was still time and financial resources to revitalize and not many churches make that decision!
You have the resources. You have the faith-filled people. You have a renewed self-confidence, as a congregation. You have what you need to revitalize your church and I will be in prayer that this congregation will be able to develop a laser-focus on the mission and vision of the church with ministries that foster discipleship, evangelism, and mission work.
Change can be difficult, but we must remember that the church is not built around any particular pastor or layperson. It is built around God. The church remains steady because it stands upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, and so it is with us, individually. If we find ourselves facing change or challenge we must be focused on Christ. In Christ we are steadied when the unexpected comes and, in Christ, we find a warm embrace when we feel fear or sadness.
Christ offers us love when confronted with difficulty, peace in the midst of injustice, and certainty in a world of uncertainty. As you read this letter I pray you will turn to Christ and know that our Lord and Savior remains within this church and community and I believe this community of faith has great possibilities ahead!