I need to write this blog now while my heart is filled with joy and a smile is on my face because that is not where my heart typically is these days. Last night I attended Centenary’s annual Chancel Choir picnic and they surprised me with an awesome gift. They purchased a new anthem in my honor called Go Where I Send Thee by André Thomas.
The song is a spiritual about sending people out to tell others about Jesus. What a meaningful and thoughtful gift that so beautifully capatures the heart of my ministry.
It is always hard to say goodbye. Because June 10 is my last Sunday in worship and June 11 is my last day in the office before I take a few days to rest and prepare for my next appointment, it’s time to say goodbye. As I was packing boxes this week it hit me. What I have known in my mind to be true for quite a while became real and tangible to my heart. As I experienced all of the “lasts” this week, nostalgia set in. My last staff meeting, my last worship planning meeting, my last typical day in the office, packing up the last of my books, my last baptism, my last time presiding over communion here, as I had my last meeting for coffee with both a church member and a member of the community outside of the church, I was acutely aware each time that it was the “last”. As I stood at the back of the auditorium last week and listened to the Rejoice jazz band play for the last time, my heart felt like it lodged in my throat. It will be a miracle this week if I get through worship without choking up as I hear the choir for the last time and as I preach in that majestic sanctuary for the last time. Yep, saying goodbye stinks.
Yet, it is a part of life. It is certainly part of the typical United Methodist preacher’s life. We itinerate, so over time, we learn to leave well and the importance of saying goodbye. But that doesn’t make it easy for us.
I am very excited to be going to Boone UMC in a few weeks. It is a good church filled with great people who I look forward to meeting and doing ministry with. But right now, my heart is filled with sadness at saying goodbye to friends I had planned to serve beside a little longer and that I wanted to get to know much better over time. I look at plans unfinished and dreams unfulfilled and have to entrust them into the able hands of others to see their completion knowing I will not be the one that gets to do that. But that’s the thing about God. It often takes many hands to help fulfill God’s big dreams and I know that. I look back on years of ministry where the persons following me come in and take the work that I have been about and steps even more boldly into God’s future with those churches. I look forward to seeing where God takes Centenary!
So let us set aside our tears of sadness at saying goodbye and prepare for new adventures that God has in store for us. Let us remember that we are all part of a larger community of believers that are traveling down the same path with Jesus. Let us trust that God’s greater plans will turn our sorrow in this moment into great joy at some point in the future. Let us learn from what has transpired, whatever lessons that God intends for us to learn. Where there has been hurtfulness, let us not repeat it in the future. Where there has been confusion, may clarity come. Where there has been brokenness, may the healing begin. Where there is joy, may it come not at the expense of others. Where there is change, may there also be hope for a bright new future.
Because I know God has amazing plans in store for you. I know that to the very core of my being. And I also know that God is not easily thwarted so one way or another, those plans will be realized. Whatever way I have been able to be a part of those plans for Centenary, I will be forever grateful. I cherish my time with you and all of the many lessons I have learned and the wonderful people I have met here in Winston-Salem. But now, my friends, it is time to go where God sends me. There is another flock to shepherd. Another community to get to know and love. Another place to do God’s Kingdom work. New friends to meet. And you have a new and capable shepherd coming who will love and lead you. And of course, the one Good Shepherd will continue to lead all of us. And there is great comfort in that.
Now more than ever, I pray for Grace and Peace for you,