Last Sunday. It has such a foreboding sound to it. While I’ve experienced “last Sunday” six previous times (including my last Sunday in my home church), I have approached this one with very mixed feelings. In all of the past times, we were moving to a new church. While we might not have known what the future held, what we did know was that there would be ongoing ministry, meetings, fellowship, and all of the usual aspects we celebrate as “church.” And, most important, there were the people we would come to know and love. Ministering with and among these people was much anticipated by both of us.
The above is why this “leaving” is so bittersweet. We will not have a church awaiting us. Of course, we’ll be in a church, but as attender/member rather than pastor/spouse. Two, we will miss the many friendships we’ve made, not only at Hunt UMC but in all the churches we’ve served, the many District and Conference committees on which I’ve served, and the many, many people we’ve met through Emmaus. We’ve enjoyed our time at Hunt. You have been so hospitable, caring and loving. You’ve surrounded us with love and grace through Ginger’s surgery and recovery, and through my shoulder surgery and recovery. We couldn’t have asked for a more warm and caring place to be.
The Sundays in July, and the months and years following those, will be different. While I look forward to retirement, I’ll miss the ongoing acts of ministry, and being able to share with you in these. And yes, I’ll even miss the committee meetings. Well, not that much (insert laughing emoji here)! I’ll miss being awakened in the early morning hours when I’m needed in a parishioner’s home or at the hospital. I’ll miss the joy of baptizing an infant, and the sadness of burying beloved members of the church. I’ll miss the laughter and I’ll miss the tears. I’ll miss your loving words of encouragement, and I’ll miss those times when you’ve gently set me straight.
But, here’s the rub. After June 30, I’ll no longer be your pastor. It is my prayer and my fervent wish that you give Paul and Laura Harris the same welcome you gave us. He will be your pastor. Although we’ll live in Kerrville, and as I told Paul, I will not be available to do weddings, funerals, or baptisms. I’m not available as a place to vent your frustrations. As I do with all my former churches, I will pray that God will continue to work in and through you. Some don’t like the “Methodist way” of not allowing former pastors to return to the church. I think it’s a good rule. I do not want to get in Paul’s way. In fact, Paul knows I’ll not offer unsolicited “advice” to him, nor will I act in a “consulting” role. Of course, if we run into one another in the “big city,” we’ll not avoid you, but will be delighted to say hello. Just don’t tell us your gripes.
Finally, we pray that you will continue to know and experience the peace that passes all understanding, and that you will feel God’s loving embrace surrounding and filling you with love and grace. May God continue to do great things in and among you, and may the Holy Spirit reside in each of you and bring you peace. We love you and will never forget you. You are sisters and brothers for life. May God bless you now and always.
Grace and peace,
Mike and Ginger
June 25, 2017