Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God…
From “The General Rules of the Methodist Church”
The reality of my move away from this church and community became more real last week. I mean, I’ve been living with boxes, making plans, and the rest since I got the call to make a new appointment in February. But saying actual goodbyes to people who won’t be in worship this week… realizing that, while relationships never truly end between people who care about each other, there will nonetheless be fewer opportunities to bump into each other and check-in. That’s been tough, and getting tougher.
Because we don’t do these transitions all the time, it’s good to share the expectations of what changes on July 1, 2021 (this is copied directly from the Transition Resources available at https://www.gnjumc.org/transition-resources/):
As of the effective date of a new appointment, a pastor shall immediately cease all pastoral counseling and pastoral visitation with members or member families in the previous appointment. Since appointments are generally announced at least several weeks in advance, each pastor has adequate time in which to affect closure and make appropriate referrals to another for the pastoral care of members.
Pastors shall have a clear understanding with former congregations that they will not return to officiate at baptisms, weddings, and funerals, or do pastoral counseling or pastoral visitation in that parish. Pastors, active or retired, shall respectfully decline to participate in such duties when invited by members of a former congregation. Declining all such invitations is the responsibility of the previous pastor.
The District Superintendent must be consulted by the previous pastor in advance of any return for pastoral functions. Such visits to former churches shall require the advance approval of the District Superintendent. The present pastor should never be under any pressure to invite the previous pastor. Pressure to involve the previous pastors should not be generated by either the congregation or the previous pastor.
I have to step back so I can move forward with the people of First UMC of Somerville in a few weeks, and also so Pastor Chris Stanley can come here and lead you all well into whatever God has in store for you here in Flemington next. This is how these things go. It’s not easy, but it’s the time-tested way the people called Methodists have passed the mantle of congregational leadership from one pastor to another.
So, my time here is wrapping up. I’ve got seven more nights sleeping in this zip code, and one more Sunday to proclaim the hope we share from that formidable pulpit next door. The numbers have gotten smaller all of a sudden, and I don’t know that I like it.
In times of change, when our minds spiral through unhelpful thoughts and questions, it’s more important than ever to hold fast to a rule of life that brings order and peace. And so:
Do no harm.
Attend upon all the ordinances of God – or – stay in love with God.
We attend upon the ordinances/stay in love with God by participating in worship, public and private prayer, receiving Communion, searching the scriptures, and all the other powerful means of grace. If you are feeling pressed or stressed as I am, please know that it is in these times the support of our faith is most necessary. It is in these times that the love of God sustains us to do the difficult work of saying both “goodbye” and then asking “What now?”
And so – please, church, do all you can to stay in love with God this week, and I’ll see you Sunday.
Keep the Faith,
Thank You For a Beautiful Send-Off
Pastor Ben would like to thank all who helped make Saturday’s farewell celebration possible. Delicious food (and Scoops on Wheels!) helped make space to talk, share, and give thanks to God for four great years together.
Upcoming Family Promise Help Dates – July 4th Weekend
Thanks to John Newton, Walter Maze, and everyone else who helped feed the family in our care with Family Promise this past week. The ministry has changed somewhat, but the goal remains caring for people and families experiencing temporary homelessness. We will be tasked with providing food for another family the first weekend of July. If you would like to purchase, deliver, or donate in another way, please let Walter know.
Upcoming Small Group Study – Unafraid by Adam Hamilton
Some time in the not-too-distant future Bruce is looking forward to leading another great study. This time around, the topic is “Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times.” If you’re feeling residually unsettled after the events of the last year or two, you are not alone. Come, join, and see how God leads us through frightening times.
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