Sunday, February 11, 2024 will be my final day as the Lead Pastor of Manchester United Methodist Church.
Bishop Farr will be appointing me to a different congregation starting July 1, 2024, and until then I will be on a time of spiritual renewal.
In the days since this announcement was made on the weekend of January 27 and 28, Erin, Gabriel, and I have been carried by your words of support and encouragement. You are truly a most remarkable congregation, and we are so very grateful for each one of your cards, handshakes, and hugs over these past couple of weeks. Thank you.
In the first few months of my being here, someone handed me a note they had written during worship on an offering envelope. The note said:
“This was my first time back to any church after the Methodist decision about inclusion. I truly hope you mean what you say about change and acceptance.”
(For context, in 2019 the United Methodist General Conference had decided to strengthen the penalties for conducting same-sex weddings and tighten the restrictions around ordination of LGBT+ people.)
Their words struck me. “I truly hope you mean what you say …” The institutional decision had pushed them out of the church altogether. Their steps back into the church were suspicious and skeptical. Here, they heard a message about “change and acceptance,” but were reluctant to trust it. They had been burned before, and were afraid they would be again.
Siblings in Christ, you have exactly what you need to create the kind of “change and acceptance” for which the author of this note longs. You have the love of God, free and unconditional. You have the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. And you have the abiding peace of the Holy Spirit, within you and among you and around you. You are well equipped!
And that is true, no matter who the Lead Pastor is. You are a phenomenal congregation, the “Church on the Hill.” You are a beloved community of people trying to figure things out together by following Jesus as best as you know how. As members of the church, you have promised to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression,” and you have promised your “prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness” to this work. The world around you truly hopes that you “mean what you say,” that these promises are more than just words.
You are an incarnation of the Body of Christ, and I am so very proud to have served these past four years and seven months as your Lead Pastor. I love you dearly. Keep up the good work, no matter where, no matter when, and no matter what.