The following was Pastor Linda’s announcement to the church on April 8 during her usual benediction:
Before the Benediction, I would like to thank you as the Body of Christ for your ongoing expressions of Christ’s love and grace in your relationships and in our community. For making Christ’s love real. Next Sunday, we will celebrate 100 years of faithful worship in our beautiful Sanctuary; but we know the Sanctuary is not the church – the people are, you are. Sundays are just a snapshot – a significant worshipful snapshot – but a glimpse into the Body of Christ at FUMC Lenoir.
During the Season of Lent, and now moving into the Season of Easter on any given Sunday, it takes a crowd of folks to be the church to everyone who comes: greeters, musicians, sound persons, nursery workers, teachers, ushers, acolytes, choir/praise band members, food providers – each of you. You share the realness of Christ – not only every time you pass the peace, but every time you listen with love to someone, or show you care. Every time you risk to love you make Christ real. Someone once said, “The church gathers on Sundays so it can scatter into the world the other six days.”
During the almost four years I have been blessed to be your pastor, I have watched with awe and humility this Body of Christ respond to needs within our church… and beyond our church. A few months ago, in anticipation of March and April – which are known as pastoral appointment-making season in the United Methodist Church – I reminded our District Superintendent that my plan was for this Body of Christ to be my last pastoral appointment. I said, “When the folks at First Lenoir let me know they are ready for a change, I will be ready to retire.”
I was prepared to share those same words with our Bishop, if he decided he had a new pastoral appointment possibility for me this year. There are over 60 clergy persons retiring this year, and I knew that meant there would be a rippling effect for clergy not anticipating moves. However, when Bishop Leeland called me, I was not prepared for him – instead of asking me to consider a new pastoral appointment – to ask me to consider being appointed as a District Superintendent. That would begin on July 1st and start right away the training process of becoming a member of his Cabinet. The call and the opportunity was so unexpected, I am not sure what all I said, except I remember saying, “Bishop, are you sure about this? I’ll understand, after talking with me, if you change your mind.”
Well, he hasn’t changed his mind, and I find myself at a point in my ministry of being offered the opportunity to serve the church, the Body of Christ of the Western NC Conference, and specifically the Smoky Mountain District – my office will be at Lake Junaluska – in a role I never anticipated. Acknowledging I will have a very steep learning curve, I said yes to Bishop Leeland and I believe “yes” once again to the call of Christ in my heart.
Our District Superintendent, Carl Arrington, met with our Staff Parish Committee this past Tuesday to share my news and to start the preparation for your new pastor. The announcement of my appointment to our conference and to the Smoky Mountain district will go out this afternoon from our Conference website. Your new pastor will be announced in three weeks on Sunday, April 29th. The Methodist Move Day is July 3rd and his or her first Sunday with you will be July 15th. My last Sunday as your pastor will be July 1st.
Kasey is with me here today. She has moved with me 6 of my 9 times. This will make her 7th and my 10th. Moving is difficult, but we have learned to say, “We never subtract people. We just keep adding.” And we will certainly carry you with us, for you have made Christ real to us in real ways.
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion/connection of the Holy Spirit go with you.