May 19, 2019
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It was soon after I arrived at my current appointment, in Collinsville, that it became clear they could not sustain the church with a full-time pastor. For 18 months I have been operating as an (unintentional) interim trying to help them plan a future. That was difficult knowing that the District Superintendent could call at any time with a new appointment. We got that call not long ago.
When we learned about Abingdon, we drove up immediately to see the community of which we knew next-to-nothing. As we drove through the community, I was reminded of Pike County (where I grew up), and I was reminded of the experiences which formed me into the person I am today. Many of those experiences were shaped through the people and ministries of my home church in Pittsfield, so driving past buildings helped me to imagine myself in Abingdon but could not help us know what kind of congregation awaits.
Meeting the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and spending time with Rev. Wilson helped me to see what this congregation is: active, compassionate, organized, lay-led and hopeful. It was a wonderful introduction! Your leaders on the SPRC were insightful and articulate and your pastor has already given the congregation many tools that it will need for the future. This indicates that Abingdon is a very special church with even greater possibilities ahead!
I don’t know the future, of course, but I can see myself in the communityof Abingdon and I cannot wait to begin my ministry with the peopleof Abingdon United Methodist Church. We can grow together and, I hope, grow to love one another. In fact, that is my philosophy of ministry: “It’s all about relationships.” A faith community is about relationships with God, one another, and the world around us. I believe that a church which can embrace God’s love and build sound relationships around that love will prosper.
Of course, it won’t always be easy. Change is often difficult and is especially difficult at this time when you grieve the loss of a pastor and her family, and Carrie and I grieve communities and churches for which we cared. We must remember, however, that the church is not built around any one pastor or congregation. It is built around God. So long as we remain hopeful in the faith and trust in our God, all things are possible!
As you read this letter, I pray that you will find new ways to experience hope. Be hope-filled for the new relationships that will shape us, for a remarkable congregation, and for a God of possibilities!