Saying goodbye is never easy. When I interviewed to be the pastor of College Hill Presbyterian in May of 2000, I was told that, since the two previous pastors had served 22 years and 15 years, the congregation was expecting another long tenure. My response was, “Lord willing, I am glad to commit to staying a long time.”
God has been gracious beyond my imagining, and I have been blessed to be in your midst for almost 18 years. I cannot thank God enough for the joy you have brought me as we have worshiped together, learned together, served our community together, and broken bread together. I pray that you feel the same.
But now I say goodbye, as God has opened the way for Barbara and me to enter the next phase of our married life in our retirement home in Sarasota. As I have said, I am not retiring yet, but I am ready to slow down a bit and face some new and different challenges. I anticipate that the interim pastor position I am taking will fit the bill.
So, what’s next? That is the question many of you are asking. In the broad sense, none of us knows what God has in store for this congregation. But in the narrow sense, there are some specific steps that will be taken as you move forward in ministry:
- The Session will be electing a small committee which will work with Lehigh Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry to find and hire an Interim Pastor.
- Leadership change is always difficult, but especially so after a long pastorate. The Interim’s task will be to help you, the congregation, maintain your current level of ministry as you go through this time of transition, celebrating the past and discerning the future.
- At some point, perhaps 8-12 months from now, you will be electing a Pastor Nominating Committee to seek a new called pastor for the congregation.
It is important to note that Pastor Susan is not eligible to be the Interim Pastor, nor the next installed pastor. She will temporarily assume some extra duties until the Interim Pastor arrives, and then she will continue to fulfill her Associate Pastor role as she has been called to do.
According to the Gospel of John, when it came time for Jesus “to be glorified,” he ate a meal with his disciples and washed their feet, then encouraged them at length (3 chapters!) and prayed for them. I have no desire to be glorified – just remembered with love. We will share a meal together on the 18th, and I greatly look forward to that. (I will not be washing anyone’s feet!) I will be encouraging you in my sermons and praying for you each and every day. As Jesus prayed, so I pray for you: …may they all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)
My love and blessings to all of you,