In about 3 1/2 months, Julie and I will be packing up our things and moving to LeMars where I will assume the position as the pastor for the LeMars UMC. Though we've been through this process a number of times, this will be my sixth charge, saying goodbye never gets easier. We've known for several months that a move may have been in the works and we're excited about the possibilities for serving God that lie in front of us. Still, there are things I'm going to miss a great deal when we leave New Sharon. At the risk of leaving something out let me mention a few things.
I'll miss the tremendous staff which makes this congregation run. Each one of them is sold-out for the kingdom of God and have such a great heart for ministry. I'll never forget the first Sunday we were in New Sharon. Julie & I arrived at the church and the street was crowded with people. The youth were getting set to take off on their first TeenServe trip and the air was filled with excitement. That atmosphere of anticipation, that God is going to move in our midst is rooted in the staff's love for Jesus and their faith that God is active in our world.
I'm going to miss the wonderful times of worship. The worship team has about doubled in size since I arrived thanks to great paid and unpaid servant leaders. It is obvious each Sunday that the individuals who help lead worship aren't doing it for their own glory but rather so that others can connect with God. Their voices and musical talent have given me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes on many occasions as the Spirit worked through them.
I'm going to miss the youth. The first confirmation class I had here gave me the nickname PJ and it has stuck. The youth of this congregation play such an active role within the life of the congregation. They model faithfulness and servanthood and this congregation won't be the same without them.
I'll miss cheesy potatoes. The UMW ladies who prepare and serve at funeral dinners provide a ministry that touches grieving people's lives. The cheesy potatoes have come to represent for me the warm and comfort their love for others provides.
I'll miss the love and support of so many people who have been understanding of my weaknesses and caused me to stretch and grow spiritually. Since I announced our move yesterday, several individuals have said that Julie & I have had an impact on their lives. I thank God for this. I'm convinced no one truly comprehends the role we play in others' lives and I'm sure the people of the New Sharon UMC have little idea how much they have meant to me and how much they have helped me become a better person and a better pastor.
I could go on for quite some time, but I don't want to get all melancholy so I'll stop here. As I have reflected back over my years in New Sharon and prepare to say goodbye, I give thanks God for them, while at the same time I look forward with hope and thanksgiving to what lies in store for Julie and I when we say hello to the folks of LeMars. I'll share my thoughts about that soon.