Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Some of those who are friends with me on Facebook may know that I announced last week, first to The Brooklyn Free Methodist Church and then generally, I have been appointed to the Dansville Free Methodist Church in Dansville, NY, which is roughly an hour south of Rochester, NY. 

My wife Sandy "Buffy" and I began this incredible journey three years ago in being appointed to pastor The Brooklyn Free Methodist Church of East Otto having little to no experience in what it took to lead a congregation week after week, particularly a congregation in such a rural setting with people who had been through quite a lot of heartache and instability. It was a tall task for any pastor, let alone someone who was not only new to the church but also to the Free Methodist denomination. 

During our time (which we still have a few weeks left) we have seen people come and go. We have laughed and cried, shared in joy and in sorrow, and tried as best as we could to lead as Christ leads each and every one of us. It hasn't been easy, and many times there were misunderstandings and hurt feelings that, in looking back, were quite petty. But we went through the growing pains together, and the more my wife and I got to know the people of Brooklyn/East Otto and the surrounding area, the more we realized that God had a bigger plan in mind than what we could ever imagine.

Over the course of our three years we saw a congregation that was focused inward and in survival mode become a congregation that was willing to come alongside other churches and ministries in the community and help where they could. We even took the bold step of bringing back some outreach of our own, going so far as to help out a sister church in the borough of Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy had hit, and beginning a community garden for people in the surrounding area to have access to healthy eating options. Some of these initiatives came from my prompting, but others came from the congregation that was learning of the Holy Spirit's ability to enable us all to undertake ministry.

Together, we have seen bigger and better things done than we could have ever hoped or dreamed. That makes it, in many ways, difficult to leave when things are going as well as they are.

Buffy and I dreamed of seeing many great and wonderful things accomplished in Brooklyn/East Otto and the surrounding area, and it is still something we want to see done. Just because we won't be there to be a part of it doesn't mean we believe that the ministry which was started needs to be discontinued. On the contrary, we want to see it grow, and will be keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. 

Yet, at the same time, we are looking forward to this new opportunity we have been given, and we see God's hand in directing us to go. What it boils down to is I am first and foremost a servant of God and I go where He sends me. I never sought to make pastoral ministry about me, or what I wanted. It has been my firm belief and will continue to be my firm belief that the pastor needs to model what serving Christ looks like, and leading by example. As the Apostle Paul said "Follow me as I follow the example of Christ." If I believed for one second that pastoral ministry was about what I could accomplish, then I would be the least qualified person ever to be a pastor. 

With the willingness to follow God's call though comes points where moving on as God leads becomes difficult because of the relationships we have forged. Nobody ever said it would be easy to follow God's call, and trust me it isn't easy to say goodbye to the first church I was appointed a pastor of. It brought tears to my eyes making the announcement that Buffy and I were being appointed elsewhere. Yet that is the nature of the call, to follow God's will wholeheartedly. 

As difficult as our last Sunday at The Brooklyn Free Methodist Church of East Otto will be, we know that God is in control and He will be right there with us. Although I still have a few more weeks, I wish to express my gratitude to the wonderful people in East Otto, and the privilege it has been to be your pastor over these last three years.

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