Barring any unforeseen developments, this will be my last pastor’s column here. On July 28, I will preach a candidacy sermon at Echo Hill Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At this point I have been formally nominated, but the congregation must vote before I can be officially called. Assuming that weekend goes well and the congregation at Echo Hill votes in the affirmative, I will wrap up my ministry at Hope on August 25. It’s hard to believe that our time together is ending.

Once my new call is officially in hand at the end of July, the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry will begin working with the session here to walk through the pastoral transition process. This involves a self-study of the congregation’s mission, context, gifts, and needs as we look ahead to the next stage of community life. Just as the church changes over time, each pastor embodies particular gifts, skills, passions, and personality. The pastor who was a “fit” here five years ago presumably would not be the right person for the job now. This self-study and pastoral search will take some time, during which you will likely call an interim pastor or stated supply. I trust that this process is in good hands – yours, those of the Committee on Ministry, and ultimately God’s.

As I look ahead to this move and the prospect of saying goodbye to this community, I am profoundly grateful for the time we have spent together. You have patiently and kindly accompanied me as I came into my own as a pastor. You have welcomed us into this community and supported us as Ian and Ben joined our family. Most of all, you have welcomed me into your lives, and we have shared together profound moments of faith, loss, and growth. Such deep and faithful sharing is the richest part of this work for me.

I celebrate especially the rich relational fabric of this church’s life together. Your eclectic approach to faith finds its core in a joyful mutual welcome and a lighthearted openness to the various perspectives we bring with us. Your sense of God’s immediate presence in the church community has greatly enriched my own faith. You have called forth my honesty and welcomed my story as a part of the story of this church.

I’m aware that our time together has been one of significant change. We have borne witness at dozens of funerals and said goodbye to many beloved members. Some long-standing programs have ended or been reshaped. We’ve seen changes in musical leadership, worship order, committee leadership – even the carpet is changing! Hope will move into the future as a smaller but more flexible (and less orange) congregation.

As I prepare for this transition, I remain hopeful for this church’s future. Amid the demographic forces that are reshaping our larger community, a rising generation is committing to make the Iron Range its home for good. Our church is renewing its focus on community service and leadership. We retain our established culture of thoughtful openness and the distinctive welcome we extend to others who find God in the big questions of life.

I’m excited about the next step in my ministry, and certainly I’m happy for my family to make this move in a couple months. At the same time, I’m sad to leave behind this beautiful place and this wonderful community. I look forward to the work we’ll be able to do in these final two months together. I continue to give thanks for your place in my life and the experiences we’ve had together.

In gratitude, and in Christ’s peace,