As the year turns, we seem to be entering a new stage of our relationship with each other. I have shared with the session – and I know news has traveled through much of the congregational grapevine – that I’m beginning the process of searching for another call. This process generally takes a year or two, so there is plenty of time to be together here. In this time, I hope we get to have some great conversations with each other about the time we’ve spent together and the future of our congregation.

It’s hardly standard practice to disclose this information quite so early in the search process. As one colleague jokingly asked, “Aren’t you just supposed to announce it four weeks before the moving truck arrives?” In fact, that’s not so far from the way things were routinely done several years ago. I’m confident, however, that it’s better to err on the side of making you aware of this process sooner rather than later. In particular, I think the church will benefit from the chance to talk about this transition in our life together. Like many churches, we may soon need to ask some serious questions about our needs for staffing, facilities, and programs; I wanted us to begin that conversation with the freedom of knowing we don’t have to protect my employment here.

In conversations with those in the know, I’ve had the hardest time naming exactly why we’re starting the search process right now. The short answer is that it’s come to feel like the right time in that intuitive way that we sense the Spirit’s call. The career and family timing aren’t surprising: we’re entering the window of five to eight years for the length of this first call, and our family is established with Ian and Ben. In this process, we’ve learned a great deal about ourselves as a family and about me as a pastor. I’m deeply grateful for the chance to journey with you through many ups and downs, for your patience with me as I learn, and for the ways you continue to welcome me into your lives.

We’re similarly vague about where exactly we hope to end up through this search process. We could venture some general factors, such as more access to extended family or the realization that we are “city people” more than we thought, and set up some ideal location, but we’re also ready to be surprised by what the Spirit lines up for us next. Wherever I am called next, know that nothing is driving me away from here; it’s merely time to open this next door.

Hope Community Presbyterian Church is indeed a wonderful place to serve God. At our core, we seek to embody Christ’s love in great ways. We offer a welcome to those on the edges of our community; we share our energy and our resources with others formally and informally; we study and reflect with minds open for God’s truth. We combine a rich history of service to our Range communities with a sense of how big, diverse, and interconnected our world is. In my time here, you have taught me about weathering a recession, leading a study group, and frying lake trout on a granite island. We have said goodbye to some traditions, such as the week-long youth canoe trips and the fall bazaar. We have renewed our focus on outreach through the college and Billy Bell Bakery. We have celebrated the lives of many beloved members and borne witness to the resurrection and its promise of renewed life together in Christ. I have been honored to be part of so many challenging and blessed transitions with you.

The transitions will continue to come. As my search process continues, I hope we will take some time to talk about what big questions face our congregation. What truly are our long-term pastoral needs, for instance, or how do we intend to use and maintain our glorious 90-year-old sanctuary? For what jewels of our past do we need to mourn? Where is the undiscovered treasure in our life together?

In all my work – personally and in leadership here – I trust that the Spirit of Christ is yet among us, guiding us into a future we may only just perceive. May we trust and follow with joy.

In Christ’s peace,