Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A word of thanks on the way out

For those who know me or at least are connected to me by social media, the word is out; I have received and accepted a call to be pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, Florida, starting hopefully by January 25 or sooner.

So some things to get out of the way:

1) Yes, Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida.  Yes, I have my old Ph.D. from Florida State University.

Yes, I know.

2) Because of the process of the Presbytery of St. Augustine, I have already been examined by that presbytery's Examinations Commission and received into the presbytery.  I'm already on the email list, even.  Because of this there is not as much need for a long protracted process before ordination and installation.  We're already working on getting a committee together, and hopefully it will happen February 8.  Good excuse for a weekend visit to Florida in February, right?  Anyway, to me that's a good thing, because do you realize Lent starts less than two months from now?  Yikes.

3) We have a contract on a place to live, and despite some strange HoA covenants that will hopefully be settled soon enough to move in before the new year is too far along.

4) While I will assist in liturgical leadership at a church this Sunday, I have no more supply preaching days scheduled.  Having been roped into singing agreed to sing in the choir at a different church tomorrow night, that means I have precious few days left to be a simple average congregation member and to listen to the sermons of others.

5) I haven't decided what all this means for this blog.  In one sense, the "fool's errand" of the title is done.  I've left behind the life of academia, taken up a theological education, and am now headed into a pastorate.

On the other hand, there are still things to learn.  At any rate I suspect a few last posts will come along before any decision is made one way or another.  If anything I might actually get back to blogging, as opposed to reposting sermons (which I presume will be going up on the church's website).  We'll see.

But before things got too far I did want to offer up one acknowledgment, out of the supply-preaching experience.  Today I received in the mail what I assumed to be one last Christmas card, although I didn't quite understand why it was addressed only to me instead of to both of us.

Instead it turned out to be my first "ordination card."  It was sent by the congregation of Meherrin Presbyterian Church in Meherrin, Virginia, about an hour southwest of where we've been living.  I preached there at least ten or twelve times since graduating in May, far and away my most frequent supply stop.

On a good Sunday the congregation includes eight or nine people.  (It was quite an event when there were twelve one Sunday.)  They have a piano but no one to play it (it was a huge even when my wife went me to play for the service, on two different occasions), and tend to sing to the accompaniment of something called "The CD Hymnal," although they were game enough to sing a cappella if a hymn wasn't available on that set.

By now some of you have already gotten an image in your head of this church you've never heard of. Some parts of that image might be correct.  Some parts are definitely wrong.

I did preach in other churches on occasion, some of which could be described as "waiting to die."  Not this one.  It is a church that exhibits little concern with being too small to do anything, instead focusing on doing what it can to fulfill the mission of the church universal, from collecting almost anything for the needy to opening up the church library to the public the first Saturday of each month for the children in the area (it's not a highly-populated area, but they do get some traffic).

They're pretty willing to try most anything, including new or unfamiliar hymns (I even had the chance to choose a set of hymns for one service from the still-relatively-new Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal and borrow a couple of handfuls of hymnals to use for it one Sunday), and are all about any prayer or litany that involves the whole congregation.  I was able to preach some fairly pointed sermons without getting run off as well.

The church to which I am headed is a small one, but not nearly so small as that.  At any rate they should consider themselves warned that, after my experience with the good folks at Meherrin Presbyterian Church, I will be extremely disinclined to listen to any arguments that Grace Presbyterian Church is "too small" to do anything.  For that lesson I am and will be thankful as  I make this next, joyful and awe-ful and maybe even a little fearful transition.

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