Written March 15, 2021
Dear First United Methodist Church,
One year ago, I discerned a distinct call to ministry. That call urged me to enroll in seminary and is now urging me to leave FUMC to accept an appointment as a licensed local pastor. Therefore, in June, my family and I will be packing up and moving to the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church where I will live and work while I finish my studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Kathy McNeil will be assuming the primary and immediate responsibilities of Music and Worship Arts, while the church begins the process of finding my replacement.
These are the facts of the matter. While facts are useful to a degree, they fail to convey the deep surge of emotion and feeling operating just below the surface. The staff recently had a long-range planning meeting – dreaming and visioning the future of this great church post-covid. To get us started, Michael asked each of us to take a few minutes and talk about how this church, FUMC, has shaped our lives. When it was my turn to go, I barely made it through the first sentence before the tears started to flow. I want you to know why I cry when I think about this church’s influence in my life.
I came to this church just a few months after my 30th birthday. The church welcomed Lauren and me and we quickly began the work of building our lives in this area. We had never been at a church that demanded and expected so high a level of integration with our daily lives. Nearly every weekend, we found ourselves driving from Asheville to Waynesville for dinners and events with friends from FUMC (we eventually determined it would be easier to just move to Waynesville!). In 2014, our lives bent near to breaking by the loss of our son, and soon after, the loss of my mother. We struggled to navigate those waters. It was during that darkest time that I discovered this church to be something more than a social center for folks. FUMC emerged as a house of love, abounding with saints, too many to name (but, I do name them), who courageously stepped into the waters of our tragedy and refused to let us sink.
I love FUMC Waynesville. I really do. I love the choirs. I love the children and youth. I love the worship. I love Christmas Eve and Holy Week. I love the things we do on Wonderful Wednesday. I love the Wilderness Trail hikes. I love the way the congregation sings! I love the pancakes and the pecans. I love the pumpkins. I love the staff so much! Yes, I love FUMC Waynesville. But it is not my love for FUMC that moves me to tears. Rather, it is FUMC’s love for me. Thank you all!
“There are not many churches like FUMC Waynesville out there!” So many people have said this to me this past year. Staff members. Friends. Even a former bishop. I know they are right. I hope and pray that my ministry might help make the extraordinary experience of church that we have here at FUMC a little less uncommon in this world.