Donna’s and my former home-church; Woodstock United Methodist Church in Woodstock, Alabama; was where I was baptized and later became a church member for the very first time. Spanning nearly four decades, we experienced the best of times and worst of times at this little white church perched atop the hill. We were not only longstanding members, but I also had the challenge of serving ten years there as senior pastor.
The church, of course, is not the building; but the sisters and brothers in Christ who worship there. As God began calling, one by one, the senior saints of the church home to glory; pews once occupied on Sunday mornings were vacant and faces once smiling were memories.
With very few remaining active members from whom to choose, filling church-board positions became difficult. Those who were available and open to serving held multiple positions.
Never before did Donna and I invest so much of our time, talents, and effort for God as when we were at our former home-church. One of Donna’s greatest joys was serving as pianist for Sunday morning worship services.
As true in any congregation, there were some who were quick to express their love and appreciation of us and others who were equally quick to do the exact opposite. We gained an entirely new understanding not only of the many blessings, but also challenges faced by pastors and their families.
Donna’s and my caring for both the church and her father, who has vascular dementia, became increasingly overwhelming to the point that the welfare of all parties seemed best served by my resigning as pastor, which I did on August 21, 2017.
After almost two years of soul-searching and prayer, we finally opted to remove; on May 10, 2019; our names from the membership roll. We realized our returning would be confusing for the congregation, my successors to the pulpit, and us. Our season and time there had ended.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (King James Version)
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Oftentimes, God has to shake limbs hard to break free the hold of our white-knuckled grips. Creatures of habit, we tend to stubbornly cling to the familiar―refusing to embrace the possibility that change can actually work for our greater good.
In the aftermath of my leaving, I received two very gracious letters from the bishop:
In the first letter, she wrote:
I want to begin by saying thank you to you and Donna for your years of ministry in the United Methodist Church, including your ten years of service at your home church. Knowing that you did this while also working as a letter carrier amazes me. You have a lot of stamina and commitment!
In the second letter, she wrote:
Thank you again for your years of ministry at your home church. You made a difference in your service there.
Now, Donna and I are off to discover other ministries in which we can make a difference. The future is filled with God’s promise of constantly making all things new. Praise be to God!
Yours in Christ,
Featured Photo: Stefan J. S. Fotographie; One Tree, Four Seasons; Flickr; Lückersdorf/Hofeberg; Germany; Color Photo; 2017
8 thoughts on “Letting Go”
Your being my pastor is truly a blessing! God was so kind to bring both you and Donna into my life. God bless you both.
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Thank you, Della! Your friendship is a blessing for which Donna and I are truly thankful. Our love and prayers abide with you and your family.
You both were/are priceless to the Parsons family. The love and friendship you both poured into us can’t be quantified. It is hard to watch the Little White Church on the Hill change as members pass and the cumulative personality shift. It wasn’t the same for me without my momma’s big laugh echoing through the pews…and certainly will never be the same without Brother Keith and Donna!
Love and prayers!
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Amanda, Donna’s and my hearts are full as we read your kind words. The presence of your mother and rest of your family, both immediate and extended, certainly was a major component of the joy factor at the church.
The cumulative personality shift at the church was gradual, but evident. We, too, witnessed the change and chose to leave while the good memories were still fresh in our hearts and minds. True, the church was a common denominator we all shared, but so are the ties that forever bind us together in Christian love.
Keith, you and Donna and I had a feeling things were not okay a couple of times. I truly believe that God is personally working on another opening where we three will be better serving Him. My friend, I believe it will happen soon enough. Are you ready for the challenge He is about to hand us three? I believe we are!
Larry, although there was not an official assistant pastor position at Woodstock United Methodist Church, you faithfully served in that capacity. You even invested the time and effort to obtain your license as a certified lay servant in the North Alabama Conference. Donna and I always appreciated your dedicated service to God and Woodstock United Methodist Church.
You were and are a blessing not only as a loyal supporter of my ministry, but also true friend. In the years you, Donna, and I shared at Woodstock United Methodist Church; I do believe God was preparing us for a greater good. Still fully armed with our belts of truth, breastplates of righteousness, shoes fitted with the Gospel of peace, shields of faith, helmets of salvation, and swords of the Spirit; we, “the three musketeers”, venture forth as soldiers for the kingdom of God.
Pastor Keith, Wanda and I chose to move to Florida in 2016, but our time there with y’all was the best. We loved the way you spoke the Word of God, and your singing was a bonus. We miss our brothers and sisters there and was blessed to have been ministered to by you.
By Gods grace,
Keith and Wanda
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Well, hello there, Keith and Wanda! Donna and I were so sad when you two relocated from Alabama to Florida, but understood the reasoning behind the move. One advantage to PRN Pastor is that it allows sisters and brothers in Christ; whether they live near or far, whether they be churched or unchurched; the opportunity to not only access a pastor, but also fellowship in Christ and delve deeper into the Holy Scriptures. When a longtime friend of Donna’s and mine described PRN Pastor as a virtual church; I asked if I could quote him, and he said, “Yes!”
Keith and Wanda, I am so blessed that you two found PRN Pastor and posted such a heartfelt comment. Reconnecting with you both has brought back some wonderful memories, one of which is a certain hummingbird cake at a certain church social. The most wonderful memory of all, however, was looking out from the pulpit on Sunday mornings and seeing both of your smiling faces in the middle row. Donna and I look forward to sharing many more PRN Pastor moments with the two of you.