Baptism of Our Lord
January 12, 2020
Beloved fellow members of St. Simon & St. Jude,
Sometimes God's word to us in a particular situation is not quite the message we were expecting. We don’t get the feeling from reading their stories that Moses was thrilled when God named him the new leader of Israel, or even that Jesus himself embraced his call without some uncertainty about what it would demand from him. And yet, with every challenge there comes a promise; with every call there is an assurance of God’s strength present in our weakness.
Thirty-seven years ago, Rindy and I and our 6 month old daughter were looking for a church where we could feel beloved – beloved by God, yes; and by the community around us. We found that place when we walked through the doors of this church, then called St. Jude when it was located by Columbia High School. This church has been our spiritual home ever since, and this past Monday, on Epiphany, that same daughter gave birth to our 4th grandchild, a little boy named Jude.
God called us here for reasons we will never fully understand to stand along with you in service to Jesus Christ. For almost 4 decades, we have worked alongside one another in fellowship and love. You have held us, comforted us and supported us in our life and work. Ultimately, you supported me in my call to become a priest. And then, for reasons that none of us ever could have imagined, the Holy Spirit led us to serve together as priest and people, when you called me to be your rector.
Today I come to tell you that God is calling us to enter into a new and different phase of our relationship. For some time, it has become apparent to me that my time as your Rector is coming to an end. And so, after much prayer and discussion with Rindy and members of our church leadership, and with the permission of Bishop Waldo, I am announcing my intention to retire in May of next year, 2021.
This is an incredibly difficult decision for me. This congregation formed me as a disciple and has shown me nothing but love. But the fact is that it takes between 18 and 24 months to plan a leadership transition. The vestry and I feel that this approach allows us a gracious time to work together to do the necessary preparation needed for a careful and thoughtful search. And it gives you the best opportunity to call a new leader without losing the momentum we have built up together over the past 12 years.
Some of the preliminary work that we need to complete before beginning an active search has already begun. It started with my conversations with the Bishop and members of his staff. It continued yesterday when one of the Bishop's staff met with the vestry while we were on retreat. But there is much more that needs to be done and we need your active participation to do it. Soon, you will have the opportunity to speak with the Bishop yourselves, when he comes here for his regular visitation on March 8th. Your participation will also be essential in completing a mission-vision-values exercise and a congregational life survey, this spring. Both of these are key components of the "congregational narrative" we need to create. We also have some general housekeeping to do: sprucing up our website, completing an audit for last year, and making our buildings and grounds as attractive as possible.
In order to make sure that we stay on track and to ensure transparency, the information we gather from all these exercises will be posted on the church website. It will also be the subject of a special parish meeting to be held at the end of May, where we'll review the results of the surveys and give you opportunity to provide more input and feedback. Then, we'll form a team that will begin to craft our congregational narrative, a description of who we are, where we hear God calling us in the future, and the qualities we feel a successful rector needs to possess to lead us. If all goes according to plan, we could begin our active search process as soon as this coming fall.
Throughout this transition, my ministry with you will continue as it has all along. We will continue to worship together, serve together, pray and play together. At the same time, it is vital that you continue to participate in the life of the church. The vestry and I need your ideas and your questions. And we need your active support. If you have questions about the process or concerns about what's going on, please ask me or any member of the vestry.
The Vestry, the Bishop and I all agree that this parish is a strong and vital congregation. We are financially sound; we are growing steadily; we have excellent leadership; and perhaps most important, we love each other. I am excited for the future of this parish and for the new things that God is doing and will continue to do here at St. Simon & St. Jude.
At the same time, we need to continue doing all the great things we do that makes us who we are. We need to continue reaching out to the homeless, the abused, and the aged. we need to continue preparing meals for those who are sick, and sharing meals with each other. We need to continue teaching our children and our adults who Jesus Christ is and what he means in our lives. And we need to continue inviting new people to join us in our work to fulfill God's mission here in Irmo.
And when the time comes, we will have time enough to say our goodbyes.
Yesterday, Blount Shepard, our senior warden, said, “all transition is perceived as loss.” The Holy Spirit called us together 12 years ago to love and serve the community of Irmo and each other for a particular time and purpose as congregation and rector. The Holy Spirit will not abandon us as you discern a new leader for this congregation for the time to come.
May that same Holy Spirit, who lifts us up and calls us by name as God's beloved children, bless us and keep us as we move forward to welcome, to rejoice and to be Jesus in the world.