This is one of the most difficult notes I’ve written. During the past 5 years, we have dreamed, planned, worked, cried and celebrated together. Leading you during this journey of revitalization is a chapter in my life that I will always treasure. Being affirmed in ministry leadership, as we have watched lives, impacted has been an honor.
Change is inevitable. My original commitment to St Marks was one year. One year stretched to 5 and now, with a full-time career, it remains impossible to continue to lead this growing faith community into its fullest potential. As we have navigated this transition, I am thankful for the involvement of Brenda Carroll, our district superintendent, the Leadership Team and trusted mentors. With the new pastoral team assembled, I am steadfast in my confidence of St Marks’ increased potential to bring the transforming love of Christ as the spiritual hub of this parish and as a community change agent. The unique DNA, culture and vision of St Marks is strong. The process of revitalization may be complete, but this ministry’s greatest days are still ahead. St Marks is a beacon, demonstrating the all-encompassing love of Christ in an ever-increasing post-Christian world.
We began with a passion and a dream of an alternate kind of church for the new world in which we find ourselves. An expression of God’s kingdom that boldly proclaims that all means all, that seeks to embrace the best of the past while looking boldly forward, that effortlessly embraces diversity in leadership, that is fearless in speaking to societal injustices and the very same time deeply committed to the personal, intimate experience of rediscovering and following Jesus. You said yes to the mysterious joy of envisioning such a sacred place full of vibrancy and vitality. Without you, St Marks, would not exist. I want to say thank you for those who cheered me on and those who, during difficult times, held my hand, whispered words of support and prayed because you believed that God is at work in this place.
Thank you for the things you’ve taught me. I’ve seen you struggle with sickness, life changes, infertility and death. I’ve officiated and attended weddings and funerals of people you love. I have walked with you through struggle, stress and the grasping of loose ends. At the same time, I’ve watched you find God in the mess; in the tension; in the chaos. I’ve seen you find hope, peace and joy and love. I’ve watched many of you grow deeper in your walk with God and into a spirituality that doesn’t need quick and easy answers – a life of grace that understands Christ is here somewhere in this mess.
You have taught me not to fear the full spectrum of human emotion and experience, but to embrace and celebrate it, and in that learning to know that God is there.
When in doubt, stop talking and start praying. When in chaos, regroup. When funds are tight, focus on the mission.
So how will you respond when asked what is going to happen to St Marks? First, I’d ask that you to remember that the answer is found in you – you are the answer. Because you are the church. St Marks is not a product – it is a gathering of imperfect people deeply committed to knowing God’s love. Christ is alive here, healing, liberating people and giving new life. Protect that, preserve that. When in doubt, stop talking and start praying. When in chaos, regroup. When funds are tight, focus on the mission. As with five years ago, St Marks is going to be embarking on new territory, trying things, experimenting, learning together where God’s presence is moving. It’s what we’ve been doing from the beginning.
After all of these years here, all these experiences, all those sermons, I confess to you today that I feel like my spiritual journey is just getting started. I feel like a freshman and that God is speaking of possibility and potential. I feel this in my life, and I deeply believe this about St Marks.
One of my favorite parts of our Sunday worship service is the pastoral benediction of “go in peace”. Because at the end of our efforts, it isn’t the fellowship, the music, the arts or the sermon that is the catalyst for change. The catalyst is how we apply the truths learned, how we apply the result of our time in one another’s and God’s presence so that we might be the hands, feet and voice of Christ throughout our parish.
With hope for the future, I offer one last benediction. Let us go in peace, being ever so mindful to be about our Father’s business. Amen.