“For everything, there is a season…”
And so it is, friends, I’m announcing today that I will be leaving Northaven UMC as Senior Pastor, and that our Bishop has reappointed me as Pastor of The Woods UMC in Grand Prarie, Texas. This will be effective July 1st.
I’m sure that this news will hit some of you as a shock. But there are several realities we must all be aware of. First, seventeen years is an extremely long time to be appointed to one church. Very few Methodist pastors, or churches, get to experience tenures that long. In this, then, I have always known that we have been incredibly fortunate together. Perhaps some of you believed it might go on forever. (And maybe some feared it would!!)
The reality is that our worship attendance has declined the past few years, and our finances have struggled. There are, no doubt, complex reasons for this. But, perhaps it is time for a fresh set of eyes, with new ideas and less history to give these issues a look.
I have never assumed I would be the pastor at Northaven forever, and I had shared with the Cabinet that perhaps it was time for a move. “Sooner, rather than later,” was how I put it to our District Superintendent. The Bishop agreed that this appointive year was the appropriate time, and my understanding is that he has recently shared this news with the Northaven SPRC. I have also recently met with them to discuss these issues.
Per our United Methodist system, then, our Bishop will appoint a new senior pastor to Northaven in coming days or weeks. I have every faith that he will appoint a pastor who will continue the important ministries of faith and justice that we’ve always known here, and perhaps be filled with new and fresh ideas for the future.
Northaven has a bright future, and very soon whatever shock or sadness you might be feeling will turn to visioning that new future with your new pastor. And it will be a blessing to you all.
I should say this important word. The chair of our Staff Parish Committee, Bob Roton, will be out of the country and on vacation over the next week. I’d ask you to respect his time away and not deluge his cell or home phone with calls.
My intention is to be with you for the next two months, excepting a few weeks off in May. Dennise has a scheduled surgery on May 17th, and I intend to take time off then to help in her recovery. I’ll return for Sundays in June where we can have our more formal goodbyes. And, of course, all during these next months, I want to be available to any of you for coffee, lunch, or calls as we move through these times of goodbye.
You may or may not have ever noticed this, but at the conclusion of almost every committee meeting, if I am praying to end the meeting, I always include this line: “God, we thank you for the privilege of serving you in your church.”
I mean that for our committee members and staff in the room, of course. But I always mean it for me too. It’s been one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life to serve as your pastor for all these years.
I’ve been honored to hold the hands of your loved ones in the hospital, or pray prayers by their beds as they die. I’ve been honored to hold so many pastoral confidences that you’ve left with me. I’ve even bailed some of you out of jail. (I’ll never tell…)
I’ve been honored to walk with you as we built our “new” building (not so new any more..), and weathered the transition to new way of doing things.
I’ve been honored to worship, pray, serve, march, laugh, and cry with you.
To watch your young children grow into young adults with their own children (some of whom come to Northaven!).
To celebrate funerals and weddings for all.
To get to know multiple generations of your families, and an increasing number of your own grown children who left Northaven years ago, and now live far away.
All these things cannot happen unless there is the kind of extended tenure we’ve had together. So, it’s been good, and rich, and deep.
There will be time to say much more in weeks to come.
You will never know the full depths of the experiences I will carry with me. But God knows. And as I pray in the prayer, I’m so grateful for each and every moment that has been.
Grace and Peace,