Endings and Beginnings
My dear new friends in Pauls Valley,
In the Pastor Information Form (PIF, for those of you who like TLAs) that I submitted to the PC(USA) church Leadership Connection (CLC) to help match me to congregations in my call search, I wrote, “I believe I am called to serve God in a particular way. That calling implies a particular congregation that already exists out there somewhere.” It turns out that congregation was YOU! You were here all along. In May of 2017, I quit my corporate job and went to seminary . I also entered the process of preparation for ministry and became an Inquirer in the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. In May of 2017, you were forming your Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) and filling out a Mission Information Form (MIF). We’ve been on this journey together from the get-go, though we didn’t know it.
This past March, after all that preparation, discernment, and searching, I met your PNC. We visited on Zoom a couple of times, and I came out on Mother’s Day. On Father’s Day I met you as a congregation and you voted me in. The Presbytery Committee on Ministry (COM) also had their chance, and now it’s all a done deal. My wife, Mary, and I are working on moving out of our house, and on Saturday, August 28th, in your sanctuary I’ll be ordained, marking the end of my preparation for ministry, and installed, marking the end of the search for both me and the PNC.
Then the work begins.
There are nine questions that the Book of Order requires me to answer in the Ordination and Installation service (W-4.0404). Eight of them are exactly the same as your elders and deacons have answered every time they were installed. We share this work, and we share these commitments. I’m no different than you all. Presbyterians don’t like to use the words “clergy” and “laity” to make distinctions. We’re all part of the priesthood of all believers. Still that ninth question sets me apart and assigns particular work to me: preaching and teaching and caring for you as a pastor. I share in governance with Ruling Elders and all officers share in caring for the people. This is not a privileged job. I’m not “over you.” This is just division of labor-- working out the fact that I’m called in a particular way. In the priesthood of all believers, we are all called in a particular way and bring our particular gifts to the work of ministry.
I do have some expectations. The ministry of members of congregations (G-1.0303) of PC(USA) churches is proclaiming, participating, praying, studying, supporting, witnessing, erving, living, working, caring, governing, reflecting. The book of order describes the church and what what the church does (F-1.0301):
A community of faith, trusting
A community of hope, rejoicing
A community of love, forgiving and reconciling
A community of witness, pointing to the good news of God’s transforming grace in Christ Jesus its Lord
Look at all those active verbs! These are your tasks. I consider it a privilege to be working out my particular call. I hope you also consider it a privilege to work out how we all bring Gloryto God in particular ways here in Pauls Valley.
The PNC asked me what I would do first when I got to Pauls Valley. I’m not looking to change much quickly. I need to settle in, seek first to understand, and only then try to envision particular changes. My first task is to get to know YOU, to let you get to know me, to build relationships. I have held God’s people in my heart before as a Ruling Elder, and I will be holding you in my heart in Pauls Valley. Look for a separate announcement in this newsletter for particular ways I will be trying to do this in my first weeks and months.
That being said, there are a few things I will be trying to start early. These are subject to approval by the Session in the August Session meeting. I hope to have opportunities for prayer and worship on weekdays, and I hope to start a book study on a weeknight. Look for announcements and instructions for these to come out later in August.
These are exciting times. I am certainly excited. The one thing I think we all seek is to bring Glory to God. The one way we seek to accomplish it is by “look[ing] to Jesus Christ who goes ahead of us and calls us to follow him” (F-1.0401). The people we do that with is each other. I look forward to getting to know you. I look forward to working with you.