Rev. Pamela Shepherd
Now the Holy One said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Holy One had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (Genesis 12:1-4a)
As Fred so beautifully put it last Sunday, here in this season of Lent, you and I suddenly find that we have been flung into the wilderness—and for the first time in nine years together, we have been flung in two different directions. Thank you, God. This is painful. And it’s scary. And it’s time.
Thank you for your sweet emails and notes and messages. I am feeling relieved and sad and loved. Relieved, because I really do need to step down and allow my soul to rest. Sad, because how could I ever leave you—this faith community of people who, from the first job interview in 2005, completely stole my heart?
I want you to know how grateful I am for my years here with you. I want you to hear clearly that nothing has gone wrong. I am not secretly sick and keeping it from you. There is no secret story that was not in my letter. You did not overwork me or fail to take good care of me. It is simply that what we did here together was so big. Anyone who stood in the middle of what this church has done in the past nine years would be tired and would need to lie down.
I have been overwhelmed and honored by your many invitations to share meals and tea and visits of all kinds. Thank you so much. Feeling your love and your caring for me has been overwhelming. And, I am tired. And there is still so much to do in the ten weeks we have left, and there are 250 of you now, so I am just not able to accept all your invitations.
But I do want to hear from you. Rev. Dorothy has made me one of her wonderful books! It is on the back counter in the social hall, with a sign that says, Pam’s Book. Please write in it, paste things in it, draw, whatever you want to share with me. There is tape, markers and a glue stick. I’ll leave the book there during our last weeks together.
The Stewardship team has asked me to be your Consecrating steward on my last Sunday, May 25th. I’m so honored to do that, and you know how much I love to talk about money and our faith. Following our consecration service, after the pledges for the next church year have been brought to the altar table, we will have a big party to celebrate the success of our stewardship season, and also it will be my send off party.
Several of you have asked how you can be helpful during this time of transition. And I have been grateful and moved by those of you who responded to my news by stepping up your commitment to this church. That’s the main thing. If you’re grateful for what happened here, then commit to keep it going.
In times of transition like this one, we each have the opportunity to step up or step out. Some people like to draw back a little, to wait and see if they like what happens next. They choose to hold back on their commitments until they see if they like the Interim pastor or what the new settled minister will do.
But strong, fearless people, people of faith, choose to step in and step up and keep going. They commit to building the church that they so love and need. They commit to calling the pastor they want now to lead them. They trust that with God’s guidance this church will continue to be a place of the Beloved’s Living Presence in the world.
Last week Clark lined out the steps ahead for the congregation. An interim search team will be formed to call a short term interim minister, and another pastoral search team will form to lead the congregation through the process of exploring who you are now as a community of faith, and what kind of leader now you want to lead you.
The process is deliberative and slow. It is meant to be slow. When a minister and congregation love each other the way we love each other, grief and resolution take some time.
My hope for you and for me in this time of mystery and change is that we take Rev. Fred’s advice and give up fear for Lent. And then, when we notice that fearless lives are more fun, we just give up fear forever. We remember that we are Christians. We are bought with a price, as my Grandma used to say.
That’s old-fashioned Christian thinking, but at core I am sure of it. God has poured God’s Holy Spirit out in full measure on this church. Like the first Jesus Communities, we have experienced God’s Presence, a still speaking God who leads this church forward.
So here’s where we are, and here’s what we should do: First of all, every day, let’s pray for each other. I do so need your prayers, and every day I pray for you. Second of all, step in and step up if you love this church. Think for yourself what you will risk, and what gifts you can bring here. Third, love God and love each other. And prepare to see the miracles that continue to unfold here, through you.
Abram and Sarah had no idea what blessing God would unfold in the world through their faithful walk into the Mystery. You and I, we don’t know either how God will be Present in God’s world through the faithful things we do.
I know that Mystery is scary. The future can be scary. But we are not called into community in order to be cozy. We are called to be the Living, Risen Body of Christ–to be a living blessing for God’s world.
You are such a healthy and strong faith community. Just love God and love each other, and I promise you’ll be fine. God has such blessing to pour out on God’s World. Some of those blessings can pour out here, through you.
I want to close with my favorite words from Teresa of Avila, a 16th century spiritual genius:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
the compassion of Christ
must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which
Christ is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ will bless us now.
May God bless you and keep you all your days.