Words cannot capture the gratitude and deep affection I have for all of you. Over the past 14 years, you have truly been a blessing to me and to my family. One clear example of such blessing is my own children. My kids have grown up with you and among you. Because of you, they have developed a holy dissatisfaction with homogeneous church ministry, institutions of higher learning that do not represent healthy diversity, and friendships that do not stretch them to grow like the ones they have developed here at Reconciliation. Thank you for the patience, the love, and the many expressions of affection you have shown them over the years. Two of them, Sarah and Zachary, will be staying here in Durham and at New Creation UMC. My only request from you is that you continue to keep an eye on them!
As most of you all know, Denise, Rachel, and I will be moving to First UMC in Graham, NC at the end of this month. While we are excited about continuing God’s ministry of reconciliation in our new appointment in the Burlington District, those feelings are tempered by the sadness we feel at leaving our church family in Durham. Please know that you will always remain in our hearts and in our prayers, and I am convinced that God has great things in store for New Creation UMC. When in doubt – trust God, for “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).”
The potluck meal and “Celebration of Faithful Service” that you hosted for our family yesterday was truly a wonderful occasion. We felt your love for us and your love for God in so many ways. Thank you. Not only for all the gifts and expressions of appreciation, but for being who you are – the church – God’s agents of reconciliation, hospitality, love, and service. I especially appreciated your words to my beloved wife Denise. You all know me too well; you were right to recognize the woman who is not only behind me, but beside me … and very often in front of me … pulling me along with her spiritual exhortation, prayer, and encouragement to be a better husband, father, and pastor.
Some of you may know how difficult it is for me to accept praise or accolades like the ones you heaped upon me during our time together. My reluctance comes not only from the deep personal knowledge of my shortcomings, but also the knowledge that any good that may have come about through my ministry among you is because of God. In the UM Book of Worship there is An Order of Farewell to a Pastor. On our last Sunday together, June 26th, I will invite you to share in this liturgy with me. What I like about it is that it not only expresses mutual gratitude, love and support – it also invites us to offer forgiveness to one another for the mistakes that were made, the missteps that have occurred, and the times when our life together was less than God intended. Practicing forgiveness is also part and parcel of what it means to be God’s church and God’s agents of reconciliation.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a gifted musician and composer who sought to live his life and write his music for the sole purpose of glorifying God. As some of the musicians among us might already know, at the end of each new masterpiece Bach would pen the letters – SDG – Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone be glory. Clearly, I am no Johann Sebastian Bach, but I too want to acknowledge and “lift up” the only name worthy of true praise for any good things that God has been able to accomplish through me and through you. Join me as we all write this same postscript to the portion of the musical composition called “Reconciliation UMC” – a composition that has been written in our lives over the past 14 years. The director, the players, and the musical score itself my change some in July, but the True Composer remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.