My Beloved Church Family,
Saying good-bye is hard! I have tried writing this letter over and over for the past two weeks. Each time I looked at what I’d written, I shook my head and said “no, that’s not it.” But, the clock is ticking and I need to tell you what is on my heart before my time as your pastor comes to a close.
I loved being your pastor.
For the past five years, we have laughed together, cried together, worked side by side, and endured unimaginable challenges and change together. I have loved getting to know so many of you, celebrating your milestones, watching your children grow along with our own son, and helping you grow in your faith in Christ.
Did we always do it right? No. Were there hurts and disappointments? Yes. Are there regrets? A few. But, they pale in comparison to the ministry we’ve done, the relationships we’ve built, and the lives we’ve changed for the better all in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. I loved being your pastor.
Your love has made me a better pastor.
I will take with me so many cherished memories not just of the things we did together but, of so many of you who have been good and godly examples of Jesus and his love. As much as I have tried to show you the love of God, you have outdone me in showing it to us. From day one, you welcomed my family and me into your lives. From a thousand forks on my lawn (thank you, youth group!) to hundreds of notes of encouragement over the years, to your countless prayers, your trust, your friendship, your willingness to try new things, your patience, and most of all, how you embraced my wife and our son, I can say Christy, Ben and I are truly blessed. Thank you. Your love has made me a better pastor.
This is the way.
As much as I would have liked to continue being your pastor, it is time for me to go. This is the way of Methodists. I am okay with it and I hope you will be, too. God has been faithful to us in the past and will remain faithful to the end. So, I have every confidence that you will be in good hands as you stay faithful to God and keep growing in Christ together. I am praying for you as you transition to Pastor Tim’s leadership. I know you will make him and his family feel welcomed and loved.
Part of my saying good-bye is to let you know the UMC’s policy for pastors returning to a previous appointment. While I cherish many of the relationships and friendships my family and I have forged at FUMC, I understand and support the reasons for these rules and I intend to follow them.
- As of the effective date of a new appointment, a pastor shall immediately cease all pastoral counseling and pastoral visitation with members or member families in the previous appointment. Since appointments are generally announced at least several weeks in advance, each pastor has adequate time in which to affect closure and make appropriate referral to another for the pastoral care of members.
- Pastors shall have a clear understanding with former congregations that they will not return to officiate at baptisms, weddings, and funerals, or do pastoral counseling or pastoral visitation in that parish. Pastors, active or retired, shall respectfully decline to participate in such duties when invited by members of a former congregation. Declining all such invitations is the responsibility of the previous pastor.
- The District Superintendent must be consulted by the previous pastor in advance of any return for pastoral functions. Such visits to former churches shall require the advance approval of the District Superintendent. The present pastor should never be under any pressure to invite the previous pastor. Pressure to involve the previous pastors should not be generated by either the congregation or the previous pastor.
Good-bye and God bless.
While my time as your pastor officially ends on June 30th, my last Sunday at the pulpit will be on June 12th. There is a farewell luncheon on that day after the 11am service. I hope to see you there. You can sign up in the narthex if you want to bring food or talk to Pat Heritage if you have any questions. Bring tissues. I’m going to be a wreck.
Beloved, as I close this letter know that this is my prayer for each and every one of you.
I pray that out of God’s glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19
Yours in Christ,