This past Sunday I said goodbye to Pastors Brian and Andrea. They have been my pastors for the past six years, walked with me through this journey into seminary, and helped my family through a lot of rough patches over the years. Pastor Brian officiated at my brother and sister-in-law’s marriage a little over a year ago. It’s sad to see them go, and I’m likely to be a bit spiritually unbalanced for a while as I adjust. Still, I have the great people of Wartburg Seminary and Pastor John at Lord of Life here in Dubuque to lean on. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of St. John as they begin the search for an interim pastor and then work towards calling another pastor. I also keep Pastors Brian and Andrea in my prayers, as well as their family. Prayers for safe travels, exciting new ministry opportunities, and ability to discern how the Holy Spirit continues to move in their lives.
At the services, both pastors uplifted the church’s identity and mission in the world and community. Pastor Brian reminded us that St. John will still stand and continue to be a community of believers gathered together to worship God, be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and spread the Good News to all the people. Pastor Andrea emphasized the need for our actions to match our words, and used the illustration of geese flying in V formation as an example of our work together in the church. I couldn’t help but think that, even though Brian and Andrea will be leaving the front of our V formation, there are others within the community that will take that place, uplifting others in their service. Eventually the congregation will call another to fulfill that position and continue the work.
After the sermon, we sang the hymn “Borning Cry” together, a personal favorite of mine for several reasons. While singing the hymn, I realized that we sing of promises to be there at the borning cry, in searching where demons dwell, when hearts to joined as one, all the way to death. It became clear to me in that moment that no one person can be there for all those things for someone, at least not if they were to live a full and long life. I’m sure it should probably make us think of God’s presence in all those instances, and I still agree with that. But I also realized in that moment that we feel God’s presence in those moments through the presence of others.
At the 10:30 service, we celebrated in the baptism of a new member. I thought it was the perfect ending to a calling, to welcome a new member as the pastors themselves departed. It clearly showed that the work of St. John’s would continue, as well as the work of Pastors Brian and Andrea. Some day, when I take a call to a church somewhere, I will be taking on the leadership and guidance of members who had been baptized, confirmed, married by and received spiritual care from others. I will be picking up where others left off, and will eventually leave that others might come after me. The work of the church, of God’s work in the world, is bigger than any one person. I find a sort of humbling comfort in that. I don’t have to do it all, but I have a part in the work. As I stood there Sunday, welcoming in a new member to St. John’s and promising to help in raising this child in the Christian faith, I heard the words of “Borning Cry” echoed in my mind again.
I’m sad to see Brian and Andrea leave, but excited for the new ministry opportunities that await them in Arizona. Likewise, I mourn with St. John at the loss of pastors, but look forward to continuing on in the mission that God has called us to together. I have had to say some hard goodbyes to many people over the years, but also had the opportunity to meet wonderful and new people as well. While this will be a difficult process at times, I know that God will guide us through it, and we will work together to uplift one another. What wonderful reminders, in a baptism, hymn and sermon, of God’s constant love in the midst of change.