“O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come…..” The great Isaac Watts’ hymn reminds us that God has been with us in the past, and that God will be with us in our future.
For 8 years as your pastor, I have been keenly aware of the presence of God. I have seen God at work in 3 distinct worship services, each expressing our faith and gratitude in different ways but to the same God. I have seen God at work in the openness to new and different people, in the fellowship and support within the church family, and in the outreach of this church to the community and larger world. I have sensed God at work in what I can only describe as an energy within all that the church does. (I think that’s the Holy Spirit!)
I am most grateful to end my years in active ministry at this amazing, unique, and wonderful church. I am grateful that Susan spent this last year on our staff as associate pastor. And we are most grateful for your love and support…..for cards, letters, and calls…..for the ice cream reception…..for the Teresa Pennington print of the church…..for the generous love offering…..and more.
On June 18, our last Sunday, I attempted to ponder the past a bit, with thanksgiving for all God has done, and then looked to your future with a new pastor. Keith Turman will be a wonderful pastor for you and a great leader for your future. Pray for him, his wife Chan, their family, and the Skyland UMC family which he leaves to come here. My understanding is that he moves into the parsonage on July 6 and will preach his first sermon here July 9.
Susan and I will be living in our retirement home at the Lake. As I said on July 18, we will still be in the community…..we will be your friends and neighbors, but not your pastors. Look to Keith and the pastoral staff when in need of pastoral care, for funerals, weddings, hospital visits, etc. Hardy Tippett returns as an interim through this calendar year, and Becky Brown retains pastoral care responsibilities.
Last week the Western NC Conference met at the Lake. It was Bishop Paul Leeland’s first conference with us, and was a relatively “quiet” conference. I attended the Friday evening service at which Kayln Thaw Wiley was consecrated as a provisional deacon, meaning that in 3 years she will be eligible to become a fully ordained deacon. We congratulate her and wish her well in her ministry at Mills River UMC, while her husband Grady remains on our staff. On Friday afternoon last week,. I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the 54 clergy who retired this year. Would you believe we had a combined service record totaling 1510 years, or, as one person put it, “over 15 centuries?!” We passed the mantle to the next generation.
This Sunday Wilson Strickhausen will return to preach. I know many of you will look forward to hearing him once again. Thanks to Becky Brown who preached last Sunday.
Susan retains her position as Dean of the Chapel at the Lake, and we will worship there this summer. At some point in the future, as I said on June 18, we will slide back into a pew and disappear in the midst of all those retired preachers. So, I am not saying “Goodbye,” but, rather, ”See you around,” or “See you later” as a friend and neighbor.
Please pray for us, and we will pray for you, as you continue to be.”the living Body of Christ, welcoming ALL, growing in faith, engaging the world.”
To borrow a blessing from Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one.”