Dear All Saints',
Last July I experienced one of those growth opportunities that we all know and love. Anna Russell was on maternity leave and Glenda was on vacation. I wondered how I could steer this ship without them. The month was full of challenges and opportunities for ministry that I otherwise would not have had. I preached more than I was used to preaching. I visited the hospital almost every day. I had the privilege of walking with a family through a death and a funeral. I became a pro at saying, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the rector when she gets back from vacation?” After awhile, I started to feel energized by this experience.
For the first time in my ministry, I truly felt God calling me to be a rector. I wasn’t sure where, but I knew that seeking a position as rector was in the cards. Jamie and I spent a few months talking about what this might look like. How far is too far to move? What about Jamie’s career plans? What about Mary Katherine? What kind of church is worth moving for? We spent some time in prayer and discussion.
At about the same time, numerous rectors around the diocese announced their retirement or plans to move. Soon, a record number of churches were searching for a rector. Jamie and I reminded ourselves that we have a fantastic parish at All Saints’. We knew that we did not have to take the first position that came along. We told ourselves that we would only move if we were absolutely sure that God was calling us elsewhere.
Shortly thereafter, Glenda and I started talking about possibilities. From time to time, we would have conversations about what was available and what was worth looking into. She taught me how to ask the right questions and taught me how to ask the hard questions. Through these discussions, I started to get a picture of what would be a good fit.
Sparing you all the details, St. Paul’s Selma seemed like a perfect fit from the very beginning. After a search process that began in March, Jamie and I accepted the call to St. Paul’s Selma on July 1st. This call came exactly five years after I started my work here at All Saints’ on July 1, 2009. For me, this was further confirmation that God wants us in Selma.
Leaving All Saints’ will be very difficult for us. I have grown more in the last five years than I have in my entire life. I have been a newlywed, first time homeowner, baby priest, beginner professional, driver of a Buick, and become a father. During this time, you invited me into your homes. You invited me and my family into your lives. You have made this part of my life fuller and richer in too many ways to count. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
When I accepted the call to be the curate at All Saints’, I felt lucky because I got to live in Birmingham. Five years later, I realize I am lucky because I got to serve with all of you. I will continue to brag on you even after I leave here. You have made my job easy in so many ways. When I say easy, I mean fun! I got to worship with you every Sunday. I got to baptize and marry you. I got to play softball and golf with you. I got to tell our community that God’s loves them with you. I got to teach you about things that I love teaching about. I also got to be with you during the worst of times. I got to do all of these things with you and call it work!
Another reason leaving will be difficult is because I leave behind ministry that I really enjoyed being a part of. In the beginning, ministry was about new programs and new ideas. I came on board when All Saints’ was trying to establish a third priest on staff. This meant that I got to start new programs and new ministries.
Over the course of my tenure here I started focusing on relationships. Yes, new programs and ideas were important. However, I started to realize that ministry in God’s church was built on relationships. When I started to focus on relationships, I didn’t get so down on myself when a ministry or an idea failed. Something more important happened—relationships were built and the kingdom of God on earth was made more visible.
When I leave All Saints’ next month, I fully expect that the ministries that were formed and continued during my time will continue like always. I suspect that some will fade away. I also suspect that some will be stronger once I get out of the way! Ground will also be paved for new ministry. This is how the church works. There is death and resurrection. I have faith that God will continue what God wants to continue when my work here is finished.
I will join you in prayer as All Saints’ looks for a new Associate rector. Whether you think I did a good job or a bad job, nobody will be able to fill my shoes. The only shoes the next guy can fill are his own. With that being said, thank you for allowing me to wear my own shoes!!
I ask you also for your prayers as we begin our new ministry at St. Paul’s. If you are around Selma, I hope you will come and visit. Jamie, Mary Katherine, and I would love to see you. While Mary Katherine may not remember her time at All Saints’, I will be sure to remind her of all the people here who loved her and received her as one of their own. Jamie and I will never forget your generosity during that time. May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and Jesus Christ our Lord.