It’s such an interesting day across the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. We call it Announcement Sunday when churches who are experiencing a change in pastors announce that their pastor is leaving and who the new person that will be coming in July will be. For some it comes as a shock. For others it is already known that a change is pending. It’s never easy no matter the circumstances. This timing is way better than it used to be. Some of my older colleagues talk about when they would arrive at Annual Conference and find out at the end of Conference whether they were moving or not. And then have 2 weeks for their family to pack up and relocate to a new church. I think we have made some improvements!
It is with joy that I share that I am heading to Boone United Methodist Church in the lovely mountain university town of… Boone! It’s a wonderful church that I am thankful I am already somewhat familiar with. It was one of the churches in my district when I served as a District Superintendent and it is the church where my husband, Greg, was a member before moving to Centenary. He played in the praise band and if I was not visiting the churches in my District, I worshipped at Boone. They have some exciting ministries happening there including a couple of Fresh Expressions as well as a good relationship with the Appalachian State Campus. Of course, we love the mountains and yes, we love the snow and cold.
But these next few months are difficult ones. It’s always hard to say goodbye to dear friends and we have made some good friends in Winston. It will be hard to pass on some of the reigns that I thought I would be carrying for a little while longer. But I am pleased to hand them over to my friend and colleague, Glenn Kinken. We will work hard to make for a smooth transition so that all that is happening at Centenary will not miss a beat. And we will all go through the strange emotions of taking leave well where we are and getting off to a good start where we are headed. Our church folks will be going through the very same emotions as they prepare to say goodbye and hello over the next few months.
I spent some time with Mike Slaughter at a continuing ed event a few weeks ago. He’s a long time leader in the United Methodist Church who has always gone about doing ministry to the beat of his own drum. He is not a fan of the itinerant system. He managed to stay at his second appointment like 39 years! He gets very frustrated at the momentum lost when a church has to stop and go through transition of top leadership. He gets frustrated that a person isn’t able to put down roots and help shape a church culture long-term into a specific vision of what God is calling them to do. I guess I feel lucky because the past two churches I moved from I was followed by great people who took the vision we had cultivated even further than I could have had I stayed. God worked through our collective gifts and efforts and made some amazing things happen.
My hope is that God will do exactly that here at Centenary. That laying a foundation together now someone can come along after me and the staff and lay persons together can continue to live into all that God is dreaming for Centenary. So for now, I will trust the itinerant system and trust our collective work and begin to prepare myself to step onto a new campus and receive the baton that will be passed to me so that I can build on the great and hard work that has taken place before my arrival.
So please pray for all of our United Methodist Churches and clergy that find themselves in this season of transition. I am grateful for the kindnesses that have been shown to me in the past 6 weeks. Your affirmations have meant more than you will ever know. Your sadness has been added to my own to be held for a little while longer. But as I said a few weeks ago, Romans 8:28 rings true for us all.
All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called for [God’s] purposes. -Romans 8:28 NRSV
May that “good” start making itself known in the lives of all of those who are feeling anxious. May the many gifts of all continue to serve God’s Kingdom through the itinerant system. And may the Holy Spirit help prepare the way for both our coming and our going.
Grace and Peace,