Dear fellow ministers, missionaries, colleagues and friends:
Most of you have heard by now that my family and I will be changing mission fields effective July 1 and a new pastor will be appointed to Laurel Heights. I wish I could have told each of you personally over a cup of coffee. As you know, we are Methodist so we have a method for almost everything. At noon, on June 28, I will no longer be your pastor. At that time your new pastor will take over. Of course you will have Rev. Jim Carr and several other wonderful retired pastors providing pastoral care throughout the transition so the congregation will continue to always be well cared for.
The logistics of the change are often the least difficult part of the transition. Grief and excitement do not begin or end at a specific moment in time. It will take time for you to get to know your new pastor and for them to get to know you. They will listen to you and work to meet each of you. They may or may not be familiar with San Antonio and where the closest HEB is. Please be patient and love on them as I know you can.
Love on the family, too. Many times they have been more uprooted than the new Pastor. The Pastor has a place to be each morning, tasks to accomplish and people stopping by to meet and greet them, leaving a spouse and/or children at home after having left their support system and friends. They will have bought a house or moved into an apartment, possibly for the first time. They will have plenty to do but may have little that gets them out of the house and into the neighborhood and community. They do not have a system in place to meet new people and make new friends like the pastor does.
For many of you, this will be your first experience of the appointment system. It is not perfect but I think it is one of the best systems I have seen. Each year the District Superintendent communicates with both the pastor and the Pastor Parish Relations Committee using a survey form. Among other things asked on the form is the question, do you want a pastor change, remain or either? With very few exceptions, I have always checked “either” even when I was praying otherwise. After the form is filled out, an inventory is made of needs and resources. United Methodist pastors are then matched to congregations after the thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the Bishop, District Superintendents from every district and other leaders in the conference. The Bishop then makes appointments based on the gifts and graces of the pastors and congregations that best meet the needs and missions of the pastors and congregations in our conference. The hope is that the appointed pastors are then free to preach the Gospel and guide themselves and the congregations they are appointed to in vital missions without filtering or diluting in an effort to please individuals or small groups.
While I am sad to go and would like to stay and continue the wonderful work of the Gospel with you, I did check “either” and promised at my ordination to go where I have been sent. I know God will bless my time with the people of Windcrest and the Windcrest United Methodist Church. It is very likely that a new pastor will bring energy, vision and possibilities I failed to see to Laurel Heights. We have worked very hard together to be in ministry with the community surrounding Laurel Heights and to proclaim the Gospel to the mission field established over one hundred years ago. Many of you have expanded the mission field and are serving two communities, the one where you live and the one where you worship. As I look back at this congregation as a body, Laurel Heights is much more open and welcoming to outsiders and people of other faiths, religions, backgrounds, orientations and cultures than when I first was appointed. I hope and pray you continue to offer Christ to all you encounter and work even harder to encounter more people tomorrow than you do today.
See you Sunday,