Grace’s current pastor is leaving and the church is getting a new pastor.

Pick an emotion. I’ve had them all by this point. I’d love to have stayed and seen some of these efforts through to fruition. I’m overjoyed because of the success we’ve already seen. I’m devastated to be leaving so many friends behind as I move to a different state. And I’m excited to see what the next chapter of Grace’s story is going to look like.

As we’ve had the conversations that process the transition we’re all facing, one can easily see the similarities between a United Methodist funeral. We call them “Services of Death and Resurrection.” Some folks are a little weirded out at these services, mostly because I try to weave in the joy of the person’s life, and the hope of the life that is to come. They expect the service to be all about sadness, loss, and grief. Because death is a reality, we acknowledge our human loss. But, because of our hope in resurrection, we can celebrate our hope and recall with joy the life that was and is to come.

With a transition in pastors, we find ourselves holding positive and happy emotions and those sad emotions simultaneously — sometimes in rapid-fire succession. And that is okay. It is completely normal to be excited about Rev. Chris Thompson’s impending arrival. And it is completely okay to share that excitement with me — I’m excited, too!

And while I don’t want to speak for Chris, I can tell you that I have joined you in missing some of our pastors and lamenting their departure from Grace. It’s normal to miss people when they leave. It is normal to celebrate their friendship and it has always brought me joy to talk about how well those pastors did.

Just remember that ministry isn’t supposed to be a competition. Comparison is inevitable, but it is never the goal. The goal is discovering our identity in Christ and living up to that potential that God offers us through God’s grace. As a minister of the gospel, that’s what I’ve attempted to do. That’s what Chris is coming here to do. That’s what Dan, Kevin, Mark, Tim, and Barry were all sent here to do.

In just a few weeks, I will remove my stole and lay it upon the altar for Chris to pick up and put on a week later. That symbolizes two things: First, I will stop being your pastor, but will always be your friend. Second, Chris will stop being the “pastor on his way here,” and fully inhabit his role as the Pastor of Grace UMC.

It’s like a death without the dying. It’s like a resurrection and a rebirth. Your pastor is leaving. Your pastor is arriving. And Grace continues on, undaunted and undeterred.

Like the song says: “Greater things are yet to come; greater things are yet to be done in this city.”

Thank you for the opportunity to serve among you. I hope we can spend the next few weeks celebrating what we’ve done, mourning the end of our time together, and eagerly anticipating the joy and wonder that will surely be found at Grace with the arrival of her new pastor.

 

Grace and peace,

Joey