Pastor's Message - One Last View from the Pulpit...
Dear New Goshenhoppen Family:
Anyone who spends much time around me knows that I am rarely at a loss for words. I always have something to say, even when people wish I didn’t. So it is remarkable indeed that I am having great difficulty knowing what words to choose for my final Steeple column. Let me start by saying “thank you.” Thank you for your wonderful hospitality ever since I arrived in October 2018 – and even before, when I was going through the interview and candidating process. I have found the people of New Goshenhoppen not only to be warm and generous, but also mature in the faith – people committed to truth and kindness. Every congregation has some level of gossip and discord, but I can honestly say that the people of New Goshenhoppen largely refrain from such corrosive habits. It’s a great credit to you, and any pastor should be grateful to God for the opportunity to serve as your shepherd (I am). I will be returning to the congregation I served before coming to New Gosh: First Congregational United Church of Christ in Decatur, Illinois. It is considered highly unusual for a pastor to return to a congregation he or she has led before, though many of you recall when Rev. Deborah Clemens served as interim of New Gosh in the 1990’s and came back as senior pastor following the departure of Rev. Thomas Marlin.
I want to be clear what my leaving is not. I am not leaving because of any dissatisfaction with you. You have been nothing but good to me, and you have embraced me and my ministry with open arms. I am leaving because I sincerely believe that’s what God has planned for me to do. I cannot begin to explain all of the pieces that fell into place, and obstacles that were overcome, which resulted in First Congregational calling me back to lead them. I am leaving because I desire to go back to First Church in Illinois, not because I don’t wish to stay here.
I know it may be frightening for some and agitating for others to have both the senior and associate pastors leave at the same time. But I want you to take comfort in this: New Goshenhoppen has been here for almost 300 years. You will make it through this. God is preparing the right shepherd for you, and your faithful and competent lay leadership will guide you through. New Goshenhoppen will survive and thrive. Our simultaneous departure may actually be a blessing, as it will give the church an opportunity to assess the ministry needs at New Goshenhoppen to make sure resources are best allocated and that the pastoral position(s) are calibrated.
I am going to miss you, people of New Goshenhoppen. I will certainly keep you in my prayers. Pastoral ethics require that I not interfere in church business after I leave. It’s perfectly fine to share a few cards or an occasional “hello.” For obvious reasons, however, I am not able to comment on church leadership after I leave. Additionally, I generally will be unable to return for the purposes of officiating funerals, weddings, or providing other forms of pastoral care, as these duties rightly belong to your new senior minister.
I will give a similar admonition Paul gave when he departed from ministry at the Ephesus (Acts 20:13-37): Keep the faith. While there is room for diversity of belief in non-essentials, hold to the timeless witness handed down from our forebears and formulated in the Apostles’ Creed. Hold fast to this confession and test all things by it.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life ever-lasting. Amen.
Thank you again for the wonderful privilege of serving you. You will remain in my prayers always.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Peace to you in Christ,