Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pastor and People on a Journey

I hope that you have all learned by now that, effective July 1, 2013, I will begin to serve as pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania. Neither we nor our church council requested this move, but it was the unanimous wisdom of the bishop and superintendents that this is the time and place for us to move. June 16 will be our last Sunday at Bethany; our move is tentatively scheduled for June 20. Stay tuned for details on celebrating our ministry together!

Our new pastor at Bethany is Pastor Dennis "PD" McCleary. You can read about PD and his wife, Jean, on our church website. I am excited that the bishop and cabinet are sending Bethany a man who loves Jesus, loves people, and loves the Scripture. His gifts of prayer and compassion are powerful and deep. We have already begun to work together on transition issues. He has been introduced to the council and has begun to meet the staff and some of the groups in the church.

I did not become your pastor simply because the bishop sent us to Bethany. I became your pastor as you welcomed me into your hearts and lives together. Though I will no longer be your pastor, that gift of journeying, growing, and serving together is something I will always carry with me. Now it is time for you to prepare to welcome a new pastor into your hearts and lives together, to extend to him the same gift that you gave to us. I remember that welcome – the joy, the helping hands preparing and painting the parsonage, the hugs, the people who took me visiting with them, and the powerful way not just the Bohanans but many other new faces were made welcome here. It is that gift that has driven the growth of Bethany Church and will continue to do so under the leadership of Pastor Dennis McCleary. So, please make every effort to be here on his first Sundays to support him, meet him, and hold him in your prayers as you begin ministry together with him.

In the midst of this process, I have noticed and collected small things, little coincidences and gifts from God, that serve as signs on this adventure. Like mother Mary, I "treasure these things in my heart" (Luke 2.51). We were informed of our move on a day that placed the announcement on the same date as the day I preached on Jesus’ word from the cross, "It is finished." It hit us hard, but we gulped and we said yes. A friend of mine works in soccer coaching across the region and travels to Mountain Top a couple times a year. He returned with a team for me to coach and a team for me to play on – and the secretary of the soccer club is a member of Christ Church. Please pray for us to find these same kinds of connections for Robin, Jesse, and Caleb.

I have been reading Scripture differently, through the lens of this experience. To Abraham God says, "Leave your country, your people, your father’s house and go to the land I will show you" (Genesis 12.1). On Palm Sunday, the apostles take a donkey with the simple words, "The Lord needs it" (Luke 19.30-34). The apostle Paul, confronted on the road to Damascus, is told, "You will be told what you are to do" (Acts 9.6). I have been reminded of the power of obedience and trust, even when things are uncertain, when the call comes to leave what is profoundly good. Abraham, leaving so much that was good and familiar, heard the promise, "I will bless you and make you a blessing" (Genesis 12).

Together on the journey!
Pastor JP

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