It is hard to believe that it was almost four weeks ago now that we were sitting at home on Saturday doing what we always do when we don’t know what to do –Google. We knew that the next day we would have to tell you, those who have been the flesh and bone of our “family” life, that God was calling us to a new horizon of ministry in Portland, ME. So there we sat Google-ing: “how do we tell those who have been the flesh and bone of our family life that God is calling us elsewhere.”
In seriousness, though we didn’t use those words, we did Google and we did fall upon a blog that talked about leaving those you love well. In it the blogger said that he had underestimated the emotional roller coaster that would ensue once you made the announcement, but before you left. That there would be moments of great excitement, and there would be times of sorrow. This captures how we feel. There is this constant dialogue that just sits there between sadness and excitement that makes it somewhat difficult for us to find the right words. But here is our attempt. Today we will give you awindow into our minds and hearts as we think about leaving you. Next week we will introduce you to our new call.
Why We are Sad to Leave You
1) You pointed us to the Gospel of Grace.
We start with the most important. New Life has been a place for us where we have really felt that we could be ourselves, with all of our flaws and our brokenness, and know that we are loved in Jesus Christ into “new life”. Here at New Life, we talk about these themes all the time, but God used this place as the arena through which we experienced more fully the freedom and joy of life in Christ and have seen our hearts more fully rewired in our love for Him and desire for His kingdom. Though this is true for both of us, for me (Sean), this was really the first place where I began to understand the beauty of Christ’s love (which is ironic, since I moved here to go to seminary).
2) You put up with us as we’ve “grown up” in ministry.
Though both of us had had some ministry experience before serving here with you, we were green in our understanding of what it means to serve God’s people and engage the needs of their hearts. Though there is much still to learn, you provided us with opportunities to grow in our gifts and “safe places” to mess up. Many of you played crucial roles through your encouragement, patience, and grace – for that we are very grateful. It is here, particularly, though he too was like family and consistently pointed us to the gospel, that we are deeply grateful for your sharing of Terry Traylor with us.
3) You have been our family
We knew, scripturally, that one of the metaphors for the church is family. However, this has felt particularly true for us because of you. Living far away from our biological families has not been easy, but, through major transition points in our lives (our seminary graduations, our wedding(s), our first two years marriage, multiple moves, and Lily’s birth), you have been our family. This is by far the most difficult thing that we are wrestling though. Though there are individuals about whom we could say the same thing, we feel that the relationships that we’ve built here, as we’ve lived life together, are some of the deepest that we’ve known. At New Life, we have spiritual fathers and mothers and spiritual brothers and sisters. Of course, we have especially had, through our youth ministries, spiritual sons and daughters who we deeply love and have had the joy of watching many of them grow up.
Why We are Excited about Your Future
But we are also extremely excited. And, as we said in our announcement, the excitement is not just for where we are going, but also for what God is doing and (we are confident) will continue to do here. There are a lot of things we can say but we want to focus on one that we have thought a lot about as we have reflected on the bookends of our ministry here.
Both of us came to New Life at times where there were renewed efforts for the church to extend the love of Christ more intentionally to Glenside and the neighborhoods where we live. The very first “job” I (Sean) had when I started working here in November 2006 was coordinating (with the help of this lady named Nancy Bower who I had just met) a Missions Conference where we were beginning to ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
In July 2010, when Claire started working here, our first project together was restructuring the Jr. High Ministry and recruiting a whole new leadership team in order that we might make that ministry more welcoming to Jr. High students in the community.
At the other end: four weeks from now, in our last week here, New Life will be the recipient of a recognition award from Abington Community Taskforce for the way in which we as a church have tried to love this community. Of course, this is not because of the two of us, but because of the work of Christ in you as a community of believers. We as a church are increasingly opening our eyes to the needs of community and more and more beginning to dream dreams of what it looks like for God’s kingdom of healing, reconciliation, love, and compassion to come to this place. Some of us are doing that through the “programs” of the Church…others through relationships we have in our neighborhoods, schools, hobbies, and workplaces. But, this church is just beginning to scratch the surface. That’s why we were so looking forward to being a part of New Life’s next chapter, before the Lord so clearly began to call us elsewhere. It has been a humbling joy to have been here during these last few years as we’ve watch and participated in your growing love for the people of this community.
If New Life continues on this trajectory, we are confident that God is going to do amazing things here. Recently our small group studied a few verses of encouragement that God gave, through Jeremiah, to His people. This sums up well our hope for you:
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:4-7
We still have a few weeks left, but we want you to know that we love you and we are going to miss you incredibly. BUT, we are extremely excited about staying in relationship and hearing stories of God’s grace in and through you and your ministry to people here in Glenside.