There are around 120 pastoral moves happening across the state this month. Those of you packing the last of the boxes and getting ready for the truck to arrive are well aware that this process is not always an easy one. There are tearful goodbyes around leaving those with whom relationships have been build. There are accomplishments and ministries to be celebrated but also left to be continued (or not sometimes) by the congregation and the next pastoral leader. Times of transition are times of grief to be sure for pastors and congregations.
But I hope they are also times of excitement and energy around the new beginning. I still remember the first sermon I preached in my first appointment out of seminary. The text was John 1 “In the beginning….” In retrospect, there was perhaps a bit of presumption in seeing MY arrival as pastor as The Beginning! I was very careful of course to talk about all that had gone before and the good ministry and leaders the church had experience for decades before my arrival!
But there is a sense that pastoral change brings something new. There is an inherent hope in our system of itinerancy that the new pastoral leader will bring new gifts to the congregation. There is an inherent hope in our system that the next pastor will come with renewed energy to continue the good work a church is doing with the strong lay leadership that is in place or that they will help move a struggling congregation towards a new future that is rich and good and fulfills the mission Christ has given.
Now I believe that every day is a new day with God. I believe that to my core. Every day is an opportunity to start fresh, to begin anew, both as individuals and as congregations. So, the fact is it’s not only churches that are experiencing pastoral change that have the opportunity to celebrate (or ask forgiveness for) the past and engage the future with prayer, vision, and new life. But pastoral change does provide, both for clergy and laity alike a clear “comma” moment, an obvious opportunity to take stock, to look for where God is leading now, in this day, and hopefully enable movement towards an envisioned future together.
Please know I am and will be praying for all reappointed pastors as you go into new settings. Please know I am and will be praying for congregations as you receive new pastoral leaders. And please know that I am praying for us all as we seek to be the Church of Jesus Christ in this day, in this time, in this iteration of Beginning.