Pastors serve congregations who call them.  Our call is specific and particular.  That is one of the things that makes the pastoral relationship special.  Grace flows through the relationship partly because it is a stable relationship.  It is not dependent on whether you always agree with the pastor or even like the pastor.  Likewise, pastors are called to serve entire congregations, not just the members to whom they are naturally drawn.   Relationships do not last because of feelings.  Relationships last because of commitment.  Relationships depend on flexibility and the decision to put others before ourselves. 

          So, when a pastor leaves a congregation and another pastor takes her or his place, their relationship changes.  On Wednesday morning, I will no longer be your pastor.  Pastor Andrew Fitch will be your pastor.   He will then be the particular, called shepherd for Mt Zion.

           You are a welcoming and caring congregation.  I will miss being among you as your pastor.  Next Sunday morning, I will feel like I am in the wrong place, something like the way I felt the first couple Sundays I was here back in February of 2018 when this time was connected in my heart with Emmanuel in Franklintown.  But it wasn’t long before my heart caught up to you here, in this place.  And it has been an amazing year and a quarter.  I will remember and always be inspired by this congregation. 

           But with this week’s transition, Pastor Fitch will become the particular one to proclaim the grace of Jesus to you.  And knowing you, you will embody grace to him as well.  Hold him with grace.  In a world in which entertainment is at our fingertips, it is a challenge to stand before the same people, week after week, and proclaim the simple message of gracious love and peace in Jesus Christ.  We pastors are tempted to wonder how people can come week after week and listen to our best attempts to inspire and raise up the body of Christ with that very simple, key message.

            Yet that is precisely how and why the church exists.  This is the place you call home.  Your pastor stands by the font, in the pulpit, behind the altar and proclaims vulnerably—ever so vulnerably--the life-giving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord--and our place in this economy of God’s love.  Everything is grace.  Above us, below us, among us.  The Holy Spirit is blowing, breathing, and filling you with life and love.

           One last word—hear this!--the less you focus your energy on your own needs as a congregation, and more on the needs of the people in this community, outside these walls, the better.   Figure out what the needs are, and give yourself over to them—together, in love.  The together part is really important.  Mutual ministry in love renews us.  Welcoming ministries prove to your neighbors that you are committed to their wellbeing.  You are called to be a healing presence, and that you are.  You have many leaders and there is no limit to the possibilities for you as you continue to open yourselves to being united in love and welcoming the stranger.   This is the grace of Christ at work in you.

            Jesus continually gave of his life, even unto death.   We will do the same if we wish to know true freedom.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you, to share with you, and learn from you.  I will continue to hold you in my prayers and heart, and I know you will do the same.