If you're in the United Methodist Church or know someone who is, you might know about itineracy. It's the process by which the Bishop moves pastors from one church to another. One of my friends calls it "shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic" but that's another story altogether.
I started to write about my last move, but I decided that didn't do anything positive, so I deleted that part.
Anyway, I got The Call from the District Superintendent (DS) some time last month, and I knew what that meant. I have been on good terms with the DS, as he had been one of my seminary professors back at Asbury (everyone has him to blame for me being in the UMC as well as in West Ohio), and he had called me several times over the past couple of years asking me to move. None of them were the right place.
But when he called this time, it was. We are going to move to Millersport, Ohio effective July 1. For those who just know me from reading my blog, you might not have known that we were moving, and I apologize that you didn't get the letter that I sent out to our church people. I decided to send the letter after talking to some friends who have more experience moving than I do. I had problems with simply making the announcement on Sunday morning at church without giving people advance warning, but I couldn't just tell some people and not tell others. What would happen to the ones I missed? Who would I tell, and who wouldn't I tell? The other difficulty came with the fact that several people who my family and I like very much were going to be gone on the weekend we were to give the news. I could not let them come back from their weekend only to have to hear the news through the grapevine. It would have been mean. Likewise, I didn't want to just drop the bombshell at church during service. Who would have listened to the sermon I'd prepared after that? So I wrote a letter, stuck it in the mail, and left for San Diego for the National Pastors Conference.
Anyway, I didn't start writing this to tell about how I told the congregation, or even to note that I don't think the conference does enough to help churches and pastors in the time of transition (though I do think this is a problem). Since this is my blog, I wanted to write a little bit about my feelings about the move.
First, I am excited. I'm excited about the opportunities that await. I'm excited about the proximity to Columbus, Denison University, Lancaster (home of the Lancaster Festival), and the Hocking Hills. I'm excited about the church, especially the contemporary service and the chance to be in a praise band again. I like leading praise and worship songs with my acoustic guitar, but I'd rather be in a band! I'm excited about working with a staff. There are two guys on staff who I am pumped to get to know and work together with. I'm excited about the porch on the parsonage - the boys will love the fact that the local parades go right past our house.
Second, I am apprehensive. Though I haven't made very many really close friends, I've made some. I've become good friends with Greg and Ed, a pastor and a retired pastor, with whom I am in a weekly Bible study. We have sharpened one another and have modeled how people who disagree theologically can intelligently converse and dig into the scriptures.
I will miss my accountability covenant group - our conference has mandated "clusters" and my first one was rather perfunctory, just another monthly meeting. But this one is fantastic. We meet monthly and I believe that we have gotten far beyond the surfacy stuff that often plagues gatherings like ours. I'll miss those four guys a lot, and I hope to get a likeminded group together in the new place.
I'll miss my soccer buddies. It seems like a theme in my life has been that as soon as I've gotten on a solid, steady soccer team, then it's time to move. In Chicago, I finally put my own team together back in 1996-97, then got married and moved to Kentucky. I put several teams together in Lexington, but the last one was the best in 2000-01, but then I graduated and moved to Ohio. It was hard getting in, but I did... then moved up here. I thought I'd never find good soccer in northwest Ohio, but boy was I mistaken. I was here less than a week before I started meeting soccer players, both adults and teenagers. I'll miss coaching on the soccer team; I went from volunteering to being the official assistant varsity soccer coach, and I loved it.
I'll miss all sorts of friendly people from the church. We've got a church of good people, and as I was sending out the letters, I thought of good memories of each person as I put their address on the letter.
I'll miss my friends from the "other church" in town. I get together with Pastor Dave (or PD as I call him) for prayer and commiseration pretty regularly, and we've gotten to be pretty good friends. I'll also miss Trent, the youth pastor there, who is a friend and fellow soccer man (I suggested him as the assistant soccer coach at the high school, and he's done a fantastic job there - I thought, "What youth pastor doesn't want an "in" with more students + some extra money?")
I'll miss the beautiful stained glass windows in the back of the church building. Whoever would have thought I'd say that? Of course, I'm the one who gets to enjoy them through the services, but they are very meaningful to me. If you haven't seen them, here they are. I enjoy looking at them; the funny thing is that for me they replace the screen shots from worship at the NPC. Again, of course, I'm the only one who gets to see them during the service.
Now we're praying for God (and the Bishop and cabinet!!!!) to send the RIGHT pastor to New Knoxville, the right person who will continue to lead and to allow God to work through him/her to grow the people here and to reach out to show God's love to the people around the area.