As a boy growing up in a family with a career Air Force officer/parent, the cycle of moving to a new base was not only what was expected, but a regular reality for us. For me as a young person it just seemed like a normal rhythm of life. The news of a transfer meant goodbyes of course, but also the expectation of new friends, schools, and housing upon arrival at the new base. It didn’t seem to be a big deal to me as a kid, maybe because every military family was doing the same thing at some point, and so there were probably common or like-feelings and emotions for us because we all knew what it felt like to be told it was time to move.
In some strange way, the life of an itinerate Methodist pastor, who agrees to be appointed where and when needed, is similar to that of military personnel who kind of do the same thing, but for the good of the country. One of the biggest differences however, is that church members are not in the same habit of moving around like pastors agree to do. When a pastor has been around awhile, there is often a deep sense of connection to the people of the church and likely the community. When news of a pastoral change is announced, many of us are just not used to the system of pastoral appointments.
We have experienced that deep sense of connection here in Decatur. This Church Family and the community have been wonderful to us. We have been very blessed with you all and feel like we have been a small part of a great legacy of Methodists (laity and clergy) who have shared and been a part of spreading the good news about Jesus in Wise County for countless people. We have been in ministry with you and together we have made a difference. But Melissa and I have known all along that as a part of a church served by itinerate pastors, the day would come when we would say our goodbyes and Decatur would receive its next pastor.
I am comforted knowing that our Methodist system of itinerate clergy is steeped in the tradition of Jesus himself. Jesus was regularly on the move throughout Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, and many more places. He commissioned the Disciples to “go” and baptize and teach people throughout the world. In sending them out, not only was the message of Jesus Christ spread, but it was done so by people with different gifts and graces, knowing it was for the good of God’s kingdom. The Apostle Paul pointed out that, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” to the people in Corinth who had experienced new leadership (1 Cor 3: 6). John Wesley sent the Methodist preachers out to serve churches on a circuit, knowing that the regular ministries, service, and work was done by the laity who were strong in the faith and supported one another in everyday life.
Decatur’s next pastor, Rev. Cassie Wade is a gifted and talented preacher and pastor. I am so grateful that Decatur FUMC will be blessed with another wonderful and loving pastor who wants to be with the Methodists of Decatur. She and her husband Kelly have raised their own children and now glory in the time spent with grandchildren. I know you will love them as you loved us!
We have had a baton (like relay teams use in track meets) in worship these past few weeks as a symbol of the transition between pastors. The baton has been passed around during meetings, Sunday School, Bible studies, and wherever we could remember to have it to let people hold it. We have prayed over it as if we were all holding it at the same time so that our expressions of gratitude for God’s work in the transition and all of our hopes can be brought together, knowing we all have our individual gifts and graces that we bring to make the church to help make it the place where people experience the love and hope for Jesus. Pastor Cassie will receive this baton when she arrives in Decatur and she will know that we have been in prayer for her and the work God has sent her to be a part of. We all should make plans to help her where we can and support her in the transition and throughout her time here as your next pastor.
Melissa and I are very happy for each and everyone of you and at the same time grateful for all you have been and done for us as we served God and neighbor with you. Our last Sunday will be June 23rd. Pastor Cassie officially takes over as Senior Pastor on July 1st, but her first Sunday in worship will be July 14th. Please make plans to show her a great Decatur welcome that she and Kelly will treasure for a life time.
May God bless each of you richly!