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