February 16, 2018 — The Season of Lent
Dear friends and family of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church,
It is with an incredible spectrum of emotions — both a very heavy heart and great excitement — that I share with you this news: I have received and accepted a call to be the pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Fairfax, Virginia. It’s a small but solid congregation just outside of the Washington D.C. beltway. I will be resigning my call here at Shepherd of the Valley, effective June 15. My last workday among you will be May 27, 2018, Holy Trinity Sunday.
This letter comes at the conclusion of a long and painfully private journey of prayerful discernment. I have served as your pastor since July 2008. We have walked together through both magic and tragic days: baptisms, weddings, funerals, confirmations, anniversaries, preschool chapel and graduations, an exciting building project, trips, camps, retreats, and lots and lots of every-days. Through the seasons and the years, we have striven to be the community in faith that God has called us to be, together. And I am so grateful for that...for you. This congregation is in a very strong place, with a bright future for dynamic Gospel ministry, continuing always to “extend God’s welcome to all we meet along the way”! It’s just that my time has come to move along, as a new chapter begins.
Please know that I am not leaving because of any conflicts or grievances. Quite the opposite! I feel so comfortable and safe here. I am leaving because change and movement — I would call it “procession” (like what we do every Sunday in worship) — is how God’s church thrives. I think of our beautiful sanctuary banner from Guatemala, with God’s people always in procession. I have discerned that it’s time for a new pastor and a new voice to be in your midst, and there are so many great ones!
SVLC will be an extremely attractive site; Bishop Andy Taylor and his Assistant for Mobility, Pastor Terry Tuvey Allen, will be a blessing in this process; and I trust that God will absolutely direct your steps into your next chapter. Meanwhile, I am stepping into a new call, where — trusting in God — my gifts and passions are a fit for their next chapter. Can you see God’s church moving? Always in procession, pressing on in faith, even as ministers come and go, never dependent on any one leader...except Christ.
I remain hopeful, nervous, nostalgic and excited. I’ll aways be so thankful to God for you — to have had the privilege of serving, sharing life and vocation together. My family and I absolutely love you all and this place, which makes this extremely difficult.
I will especially miss working so closely with Jenny, Ron, Tanya and Gina...and Dusty Holycross — all absolute angels, as you know, faithful and loving shepherds among us.
While this announcement may come as a shock today, this new season of farewell and re-visioning is a somewhat extended period of time — longer than usual, I understand: Heather and I would like our children to finish their school year, and we would like for them, and all of us, to have some time to transition and say good-bye. (Micah and Katie are just learning about this big move too.) All that is to say, we’re not gone yet...
I look forward to sharing ministry with you for some more months: Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost are before us. The Gospel of John continues. Potential projects together abound. (Solar panels, becoming “Reconciling in Christ”, new carpet, landscaping, youth ministry, serving the growing numbers of people who are homeless in our area, and reviving the Community Garden are just a few that come to mind, right off the bat!) What would you like to do together while I’m still here? Every day is a day of grace, amen? And Jesus guides our remaining days together. There is plenty of Gospel work — and Gospel play — yet to share. And the good Holy Spirit certainly still stirs among us in this Lenten journey, as in all times and seasons.
After all, look at how far our God has brought us! What words have we been repeating from the Scriptures all these years? “Do not be afraid” (67x throughout the Bible). God’s got us, no matter what...today, tomorrow, into new ventures, and into eternity. Let us continue to hold each other in prayer, as we carry on in faith, hope and love.
Inhaling grace, exhaling peace,
“Light our way, O God of the living, May we learn to see with new eyes!
Jesus the Lord, our power and promise; light for the blind, and food for the hungry:
God is alive! Alleluia!” (SVLC’s Hymn of Praise in 2017, by D. Haas, verse 4.)