Time To Remember
At our farewell celebration at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in 1992, I was introduced to a hymn that says, “This is a day of new beginnings,/Time to remember and move on.”
Across the past few weeks, we’ve been doing a lot of remembering. Words are inadequate to contain the gratitude Marsha and I feel for all the expressions of love and appreciation that have come our way. This whole journey of ministry — the churches we have served and the people with whom we have shared our lives — has been better than we expected and more than we deserved. It’s all been a gift of God’s grace for which we are forever grateful.
The final step was when the Annual Conference that voted to accept me into what was then called “Probationary Membership” in 1970 voted to approve my retirement this week. It’s the first time in forty-four years that my name has not appeared in the list of clergy appointments that were “set” by the Bishop at the conclusion of the Conference. Now, that really feels strange!
Each retiree was invited to write a statement that was read to the Conference. Here’s mine.
I was a stranger and you took me in. When I came to the Florida Conference, the only people who knew me were the pastor of Marsha’s home church in St. Petersburg and my mother-in-law who was a District UMW President. The way this Conference took me in is a gift I’ve never been able to repay. With the psalmist we can say that the lines have fallen for us in good — though not always easy — places. We’ve been given opportunities we never imagined, challenges we didn’t expect, and friendships that will outlast our lifetimes. As the old spiritual says, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.” Thanks be to God.
Time to Move On
So, we move on. And so does the church. Among the new seminary graduates who were received into the ministry in the Service of Ordination were Jennifer Potter, who grew up at Hyde Park, and Jack Ladd, whom I baptized as an infant at St. Luke’s. What a joy to celebrate the next generation of leaders for United Methodism. The future is in good hands!
And we move on. This weekend Marsha and I celebrated 45 years since that rainy Saturday evening when we were married at her home church in St. Petersburg. That church is gone, but we are still together, grateful for the years that have passed and looking forward to our new life together.
In his closing message to the Annual Conference, Bishop Carter quoted a billboard he had seen in the Johannesburg airport. I remembered seeing it there, too. It quotes an African proverb that says, “To travel quickly, go alone. To travel well, go together.”
I’m grateful for my wife, my children, and my grandchildren and for each of the faithful disciples with whom I have traveled in the past and I look forward to traveling well with them in the future.
Grace and peace,