I guess it was last Wednesday afternoon when it happened.
After moving back into an office I moved out of five years prior, and after two days of unpacking, placing, and positioning all the artwork, mementos and talismans marking and claiming whatever space I work in as sanctuary--I found myself swept up in some sort of "Twilight Zone" temporal vortex.
The space felt like I left it. I felt like I did when I last occupied it.
"What happened?" I thought. "Did I ever leave?"
Is this the Bobby Ewing/Dallas return come true? (YouTube it if you don't remember) As if all that's been before didn't happen?
For the months I've known this possibility was going to become a reality, I've done much inner work to figure out what all this means. I'm not sure that a direct return to a previous appointment has never happened, but I know it's extremely rare. Truth is, it probably should be.
But here we are. In conversation with our Bishop and Superintendent, who have been diligent about seeking to match gifts and graces of clergy with needs of congregations in seeking to live out the gospel in their mission field, I'm reappointed to serve St. John's. And my response to that is "Yay!"
I've tried to figure out how to speak to this.
I am coming back to St. John's...but I'm not. I'm also coming to St. John's.
For everything that's familiar about St. John's, it's not the same place. You're not the same church any more than I'm the same man. Five years on...we've both lived, been changed by encounters with those we walked with along the way.
You've walked with a different pastoral leader. You've grown in so many ways. Done so much good. The absence of those present when I once served you is as palpable as is the presence of those who've come since I was here last. And I'm so eager to get to know those new to me.
My last five years have been spent among a wonderful, loving congregation. I am a better pastor...a better man having served Covenant. There were challenges aplenty in my appointment, but I learned so much. I've observed through them how a congregation lives out care for one another. I watched them coalesce around a singular goal to address once and for all a burden that when lifted will position them to be free to respond to the ways God needs them for the future. I'm as honored to be a part of Covenant's legacy of pastoral leadership as I've always been of St. John's---as I've been of all the places I've been appointed to serve. They have been praying for St. John's and for me as I took leave from them to serve here again. I ask you to join with me in praying for Covenant and David Weatherly, their new pastor, for the journey they will take together.
Here's what I want you to know--although I know many of you already do. I love St. John's. I've lived, worked and served in many different settings. St. John's is home. It always has been. I come home to this place a bit older, hopefully wiser, and ever more ready to lead us through the challenges ahead. I see the uniqueness of the opportunity as a gift, a challenge, a blessing.
Time is short. We need to get to it. And we will.
In coming weeks you'll hear from me about how we speak to our "why?"
What is our mission? And what do we need to do to fulfill it?
What is our overarching strategic plan around which we coalesce our energy, our resources?
I want to hear from all of you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org (By the way, when they turned my email back on, all of my emails from years ago were still there. Now that's Twilight Zone stuff!).
We'll be having conversations about getting clarity on our mission.
This is an all hands on deck time.
Ready? Let's go.