This past Sunday, Staff-Parish-Relations Committee chairperson Stacy Bradfield announced in worship and by letter that I will be appointed to another church this summer. Starting in July, my husband, Dave, and I will be co-pastors of the Simpsonwood UMC in Peachtree Corners. We are very excited about this opportunity to be in ministry together. In our (almost) 20 years of marriage, we have learned a lot about each other and how we work together as a couple and as parents and how our gifts could serve a church well were we ever given the opportunity to be in the same place. In fact, we met while working on the staff at Briarcliff UMC 23 years ago. Even in those early days of ministry for both of us, we recognized how our differences complemented each other and made us a good team. We look forward to experiencing that again at Simpsonwood.
Often pastors spend this liminal time focusing primarily on the happy parts of these kinds of transitions while not spending time processing the feelings of grief associated with leave-taking. While I do not want to dwell on that, I do want to tell you that I will miss you. This church has been a great fit for my stage of life, my understanding of church and its place in the world, and my bent toward laughter and joy in ministry. One of the things I'll always remember about my time here is that with few exceptions, most of our team and committee meetings have involved laughter at one time or another. The positive vibes throughout this congregation are palpable and part of the fabric of who you are, and I have been so grateful for that.
You have also been my church at a time in my life that has been particularly hard. Having lost both of my parents while serving here has given you a special place in my heart that I will not forget. The ways that you cared for my family during those difficult days and the ways that you supported me and gave me grace during those periods of mourning were truly a gift.
And you have helped us continue to raise our daughter, Joy, with roots in a solid and supportive community of faith. Whether it was laughing when she talked back to the sermon, inviting her to sit with you in worship or at Wednesday night supper, or taking her to lunch after church on Sunday, she has felt at home here as much as I have, and I will always be grateful for that.
One of the historic questions ordinands are asked when received into membership in the Annual Conference is, "Will you go where you are sent?" John Wesley asked his preachers this question. Bishop Lindsey Davis asked me this question in 2006. When I said yes, I knew there would be times I didn't want to go and times I wouldn't want to leave. But I also knew was that it was never about what I want but what God needs from me. I trust that at this time in my life, God needs the gifts I've been given to be used in a particular way that the bishop and her cabinet have discerned. I trust their judgment; I trust the movement of the Holy Spirit, and I trust the "yes" I offered 15 years ago when Bishop Davis asked me the question.
I also trust that you will receive and love Dr. Jordan Thrasher and his family as well as you have received and love me and my family. They are delightful people. Jordan will lead you to new places and new ministry, and I will be celebrating with you all the way.
I will not be able to express how grateful I am for this time with you. I look forward to celebrating our ministry together as our time together draws to a close. In the meantime, bear witness to the love of God in this world, so that those to whom love is a stranger will find in you generous friends. The rest will work itself out.