A Change of Appointment: A Pastoral Letter
If you’ve been in the Methodist Church for any length of time, you know about “pastoral appointments.” The time has come for a change here at Epworth. This is not a change that either I or SPRC sought, nevertheless, I welcome the Spirit’s timing during this transition. It has been one of the great honors of my life to call myself Pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church. We’ve been through quite a lot together – most of it good, I hope. Before I arrived at Epworth, I had never been a senior pastor before. In spite of this, you welcome me and allowed me to be your pastor and lead this congregation. You tried new things. You trusted me with your sacred moments – weddings, baptisms, confirmations, funerals, and more. You were gracious and patient with me and my kids. My youngest son wasn’t even born when we arrived and now he is getting ready to enter Kindergarten! You understood that my spouse was also a pastor and never gave me grief that she was not by my side at church. You modeled love for one another and gave your love generously to me and my family. I will forever be grateful for my time at Epworth and for the privilege of getting to know each unique one of you. I know that because of my experience at Epworth and your patience, guidance, and love that I am a better person and better pastor and trust that my next pastorate will benefit from the growth that you provoked in me.
During a sermon some time ago, I spoke to you about the concept of “kairos” time. New Testament Greek has two different words for time – kairos and chronos. Chronos refers to the mechanical passing of time. Clocks measure chronos time. Kairos time, on the other hand, is about God’s timing. It is about the right thing at the right time. And while any transition like this may not seem like kairos time from many different vantage points, I believe that the events of this last year make this year a kairotic time for pastoral transitions. Most churches have adapted to a very different sort of ministry during the pandemic. We shifted from in-person church to online only church to in-person/online hybrid church back to online only church, then back to in-person/online hybrid church, all in the past 13 months. It is exhausting to just think about all these transitions! These shifts have been hard on all churches, including our own. As we continue our battle with COVID-19 and the vaccine roll out expands, it is my hope that there is still another shift yet to come for our church – a shift to full capacity. By full capacity, I don’t mean everything will be exactly as it was before the pandemic or even that every person who was in the pews before the pandemic comes back to the pew. But I do mean that we all get back in the rhythm of doing church together in whatever way this moment calls for. I believe this is a kairotic time for pastoral transitions because most churches need a “restart mentality” at this moment in time. This way of thinking happens naturally during pastoral transitions – a new leader gives a church an opportunity to enter into a different era, get excited about new leadership and new direction. I hope you will choose to see this possibility in the upcoming transition and invest fully in Epworth’s future.
I was very excited to learn that to hear that the Rev. Dr. Peter von Herrmann will be your next pastor. I will do everything in my power to set him up to be successful. I hope that you will give him your full support, trust and participation as he comes to be your pastor in July. Let me say what I believe what gift every incoming pastor would love to receive from their church and I hope you’ll consider giving to Peter as he come to this place. Pastors love willing hearts and thoughtful participation. They love it when you show up – virtually or in person. They love it when you become invested. When you care about the ministries of this place. And so when Peter arrives, I hope you will each give him this gift – the gift of willing hearts and enthusiastic participation. I know that looks differently for different people during this time. But I hope we are getting to the point when we can start to think about “full capacity” again. I believe that with this gift you give to Peter and with the gifts that Peter will bring you, that God can do something that perhaps none of us even imagined with Epworth during this kairos time.
In the meantime, you still have to put up with me for a few more months. I look forward to these last few months with you and hope that together we can focus on setting the stage for the next chapter in Epworth’s life. Our family will be moving to Wedowee or Lineville on a new adventure. I will be pastor of Wedowee First United Methodist Church. Christy will be the pastor at Lineville and Oak Grove United Methodist Churches. I would covet your prayers not only for our ministries, but also for our kids as they adjust to new schools and rhythms – in fact it is a primary way in which you can fulfill the vow you just took at Carter’s confirmation and at Lincoln’s baptism. Two more life events that happened here that I will forever treasure.
This brings up conflicting emotions for me – gratitude for the six years we’ve had together. Sadness at saying goodbye. And both excitement and fear about the new challenges ahead. Perhaps you have some mix of conflicting emotions too. Transitions can be especially vulnerable times in the lives of individuals and organizations. But I believe it is also a time during which God can do some of God’s best work if we will make ourselves available to whatever it is that God is up to in our midst.
Blessings & Peace