This might be the first series I've ever done on this blog! This series is inspired by the exciting (but sad at the same time) news that I have accepted a new call and am leaving my first call here at St. Timothy Lutheran in Naperville, IL to start a new position at First Lutheran in Decorah, IA. As I navigate this transition, I thought I would spend some time writing about it.
To begin at the "beginning," today's post is simply the letter that I sent to the congregation last week, sharing my news and expressing my heartfelt gratitude for the blessing it has been to be in ministry to and with them.
January 9, 2013
To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today, I have a Bible verse on the brain. It is short verse, one that I committed to memory many years ago, and is a promise from God spoken through Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11).”
This verse rings in my head whenever I find myself taking a leap of faith into an uncharted future; when I need an assurance of God’s presence and hope.
This is one of those moments.
For it is with both great excitement and deep sadness that I must share with you the news that I have recently been extended a call to First Lutheran Church in Decorah, Iowa, and that I will be departing St. Timothy to take this new and next step in God’s call to word and sacrament ministry.
This is exceedingly difficult news to share, because I have great love in my heart for this place and for all of you.
I have said many times throughout these past three and a half years of ministry that I am blessed. It is most certainly true. There is beautiful ministry happening inside and outside the doors of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, and I am blessed to have stepped into the flow of that ministry. I am blessed in our worship together, our fellowship and study, and our ministry projects that push us beyond our doors and out into the world. I am blessed by our energetic and dedicated children and families, and I have remarked many times that the middle and high school youth never cease to surprise me with their depth of curiosity and compassion.
I am blessed by all of my partners in ministry in this place (and I hope that you know you are blessed by them as well!). For three and a half years, I have had the great pleasure of stepping into this church office each day, and collaborating with colleagues who are also dear friends. They have helped me grow, encouraged me, carried me through good and bad weeks alike. I am blessed by their faith and their willingness to serve and praise God in all circumstances.
And, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I am blessed by each of you. You have trusted me with your joys and concerns. You have challenged yourselves to live the love of Christ in new and deeper ways. You have given generously of your time, talents, money, and spirits. I have felt your hospitality, your friendship, and your prayers.
Each week, I look forward to Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, when I get to stand at the sanctuary doors following worship. I shake hands and receive hugs, and I grin uncontrollably at the pleasure of catching up with each of you on the week’s doings. I feel my heart warm each time a small child passes by and asks to be picked up. I rejoice to see those who have returned to worship after travels or illnesses. I love meeting visiting family members and new neighbors. And all the while, I think to myself that if we truly do believe that the church is the people (as the old Sunday School song goes), then St. Timothy Lutheran Church is certainly a Spirit-filled, compassionate, generous, loving place, as reflected in the face of each of its members.
God has begun a good work in you and will continue to sustain you through this transition and beyond. I pray that God will continue to bring you joy in serving one another, and I trust that God will continue to deepen your faith through the ministries of this church. For surely God knows the plans he has for you, my St. Timothy brothers and sisters; plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Of this we can all be certain, through the new life given to us in Christ Jesus.
In these next few weeks, there will be times for tears and for hugs, for sharing coffee and meals, for telling stories and laughing together. I will cherish these moments. Together, we will do the hard but beautiful work of saying “goodbye” and commending one another to God’s many and various plans for our futures.
As both you and I step into this place of transition, it seems only right to close this letter with a prayer. Perhaps you have heard or prayed this prayer before; it is a prayer for the journey:
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. (ELW p. 317)
May God bless us all and keep us, and walk with us in our journey forward. May Christ’s peace be with you always.
In Christ’s love,
Pastor Melissa Bills