“I have to say right up front, before I say anything else, how excited Leigh, Sydney and I are about becoming a part of your family. Whatever emotions I share from this point on in this column are completely dwarfed by the sheer joy we feel about coming to CCC.” – From the June 2001 newsletter
It’s hard for me to believe it’s been over eight years since I wrote those words. At the time I was a newly ordained minister (I still had that new seminary graduate smell!) preparing for his first job in the “real world” of congregational ministry. I was dealing with a new medical diagnosis and moving to a new city and state.
And you welcomed me without hesitation. To say “with open arms” would not only be a cliché but wouldn’t do justice to the hospitality you showed to my family and me. As we settled into this area, you all became not only our friends but our loved ones. Now it is eight years later, and we are preparing to leave the most loving and caring church we have known. It doesn’t even seem real that CCC will no longer be part of our lives. While we know there is a wonderful congregation awaiting our arrival, they will never be able to take the place of CCC in our hearts.
Thankfully, our leaving is not “goodbye” so much as “talk to you later.” Through the wonders of technology, I look forward to keeping in touch with you through email or on Facebook (and maybe even with actual mailed letters!). I love this congregation very much and will follow with much interest your future path. I want nothing more than God’s best for you all.
After all we have been through together, it is sad for me to think I will not be part of that future. But I believe God has someone perfect in mind to lead this congregation forward. I believe I have done what God called me to CCC to do. Now it is someone else’s turn to experience the warmth, hospitality and support this congregation has to offer.
An important shift will take place on Oct. 26. I will no longer be your pastor. I will not be able to offer you counsel or guidance. I won’t be coming to congregational gatherings. And you will no longer have to sit through my sermons (please hold your applause!). But, if it is your wish, I hope that we can continue to be friends. When my family and I have found a place to live in Lexington, I will be sure to pass along that information. In the meantime, I encourage you to use my personal email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to contact me.
Thank you, Community Christian Church. Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for your feedback and guidance. Thank you for your patience, your forgiveness and your companionship. I pray that these last eight years have been a blessing for you. If we have disagreed, I pray that I have not been a stumbling block for you. If I have, I ask your forgiveness. Please know that I will always remember this church fondly. After all, this is where I started my ministry. But it’s been more than that; this is where I came face-to-face with the image of God in each of you. Thank you.