I have written this post in my mind many times. I’ve thought about its title, its order, and its content. I’ve made it serious, funny, deeply theological, very practical, announcement like, and reflective. Its audience is hard to pin point, its purpose is announcement but it is also a request for prayer, a kind of thinking out loud about my own steps ahead. I do not take this lightly, I’ve been blessed to be called to this work, blessed with amazing people to lead, excellent colleagues and friends to keep me going, and a constant desire to be about God’s work in the lives of people, in the life of the created order.
I remember how nervous I was waiting for our first appointment six years ago. It was all so clear in my life that I wanted to be a pastor, that I wanted to be about the work of leading God’s baptized into God’s mission. I also knew where I wanted to go, where I thought I could best use my gifts, abilities, and talents on behalf of God. Lo and behold I ended up where I wanted most to be and was there for a significant three years of my life.
My wife Shannon and I learned a lot during those years with friends in our home town. We learned about serving, about leadership, and at times, about what it meant to live in a glass house. We also learned to honor what it is to walk alongside people during times of celebration and times of despair. Each of us in our own way found our calling in that first place. At some point towards the beginning of our third year a difficult event in our lives forced us to reflect on what we wanted for our future and we knew that it was time to venture into the unknown again, to put our trust in a system that sends us.
I will write soon about our second appointment (to Squyres UMC), what it meant at the time and what it has meant since. For now, all I will say is that we have walked an interesting, challenging, and life-changing road. Again we have been surprised by lessons learned, by gifts of time, and the constant call to be present in the lives of people. We also were surprised when it became apparent that we might be called to another place.
Shannon and I both grew up in parsonages and we both grew up in call systems. Both of us experienced the uncertainties of our families lives as congregations voted to keep us or not. Both of us experienced the heartbreak in our father’s lives when things changed and the need for a change of jobs came calling. All this to say that we are extremely thankful for a system that, in spite of its imperfections, places us.
After three years in Ragley, Louisiana, we are now heading east to the city of Baton Rouge!
The Bishop has appointed me to be the Sr. Pastor at St. John’s United Methodist Church on the south side of the city. Shannon, Seth, Isabelle, Lucas, and I will head to Baton Rouge on the second week of June to begin our adventure in this place of mission and ministry.
In the Services for the Ordering of Ministry in The United Methodist Church, candidates are asked:
Will you, in the exercise of your ministry,
lead the people of God
to faith in Jesus Christ,
to participate in the life and work of the community, and
to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people? (pg. 23)
For the past six years of ministry I have been attempting to live into that question. There have been storms (four hurricanes in six years), there have been many celebrations, many heartbreaks, and also many opportunities to learn new things, to face new challenges and to continue asking the difficult questions of discipleship.
As I begin again I make a renewed commitment to be about the work of ministry. I want to lead worship effectively, to teach the faith, to train other “curer of souls,” to connect the church with other institutions in a community for the common good. All of this takes place in a local community with its culture, language, and traditions. Above all it takes place among a baptized people that at times might need a reminder of their call in their particular place.
This has been a long note to say, “we are moving!” I trust that those that read it hear more than just another move, another appointment, another change. For us, it is truly not just all those things, for us it is really about our constant desire to be where we can be most effective for God’s kingdom.
We look forward to this next adventure!