Laurel Heights: A beautiful place for service

Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor

A year ago this week I began my ministry among you as your senior pastor. In our year together I have felt your welcome, encouragement, and partnership in immeasurable ways. Across the span of a single year we have shared joy and heartache, births and deaths, baptisms and weddings, sacred seasons and ordinary times. My faith has deepened through our life together, and I hope that has been true for you as well. This anniversary moment finds me grateful beyond words for God having brought us together to share the gospel work.

A colleague in Dallas, upon learning that I was serving at Laurel Heights, a church with which he was acquainted, wrote to me that “Laurel Heights is a beautiful place for service.” Immediately I thought of the Laurel Heights sanctuary, and the many beautiful traditions surrounding that majestic space in which we gather for Sunday worship and other occasions. Laurel Heights truly is a beautiful place for that sort of service—the worship of God. And then I reconsidered his words—thinking perhaps he meant instead the serving that you do—the community outreach, the welcome of strangers, the breaking of bread with neighborhood friends, the hosting of various groups within the church’s walls, the mission teams you commission and send, your unwavering support of the connectional church through missional giving. A beautiful place for service indeed.

Maybe my friend was describing both at once—your love for the worship of God, and your deep sense of calling to serve Christ in the world. This has certainly been my experience as your pastor—that together we have lived into the rhythms of worship and serving in vital and vibrant ways. Ora et labora—pray and work; the motto of the medieval monastic tradition has become the way Christians in every time and place understand our life together: a devotional weaving of worship and serving, prayer and action.

We have much to give thanks for in the ministry we share—this rhythm of life together, prayer and work, work and prayer. We also face real challenges and opportunities in the coming months and years; among them, possible changes in our denomination; the stretching of our program and missional life; and the care of our beautiful facilities. In all of these areas of our ministry I believe that the One who calls us to this life together, this life of prayer and work, will do more than we could ask, or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Thank you, Laurel Heights, for welcoming Liz and me into your midst so graciously and generously, and for sharing with us this many-splendored journey of life in Christ over this past year. For all that has been, thanks; to all that will be, yes!

Grace and peace.