My first newsletter article as Capital District Superintendent! Where do I begin? I’ll start with gratitude for being back in my hometown after 34 years away, in a wonderful parsonage, near my mother and many other family members. I’m glad beyond words for friends who have helped me pack and unpack. I’m grateful to be appointed to a role that puts me in relationship with gifted, faithful laity and clergy, and for God’s promise of a future with hope, together. That’s where I’ll start.
You who have moved from one dwelling to another for any reason, though, know that gratitude is accompanied by all sorts of other emotions. Even good changes are partly hard. I do think the difficulty level is directly proportional to the amount of stuff we have. But it’s also about starting and ending, inhabiting one place and hoping another will become home, leaving those people we love and learning to trust new ones. All of this is doable, and normally the change isn’t tragic, but it’s still hard, and it involves grief as well as gratitude. The same holds true for you who have said goodbye to one pastor and welcomed a new one.
Grief also accompanies many of us at this moment, thanks to COVID. The fatigue of the past year, the game face we’ve had to wear, living on high alert, and now the herky-jerky, come-here-go-away nature of this summer’s “reopening”—these wear us out, and they make us sad, too, whether we let ourselves be aware of it or not. Sadness is inconvenient when we have work to do, so it finds a place to wait around until we tend to it. Many or even most of us are carrying this, in one way or another.
God is good, though, and grief does not have the last word. Zoom is terrible and also a lifeline to new forms of community. Being stuck at home was terrible, but now we know our neighbors. And making space for the whole emotional range allows us to move through it and not have to live only in the hard parts. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). We know it’s not quite as clean as that—first one, then the other—but I hope you’ve taken time this summer to rest and allow yourself to remember and feel. And since it’s not just one-and-done work, I also hope you’ll keep building in moments and days for sabbath and gentleness with yourself. (For a good word on the blessing of retreating to wilderness, read this piece from our colleague, Paul Escamilla.)
Much of my gratitude right now lies in the task of relationship-building with you. I know harder things will come, but the joy of worshiping and visiting with many of you, laity and clergy, has fed my heart. In the weeks to come, I’ll be inviting us to talk more and wonder together about what we need right now. How can we be God’s gift to each other? What is God telling and offering us in today’s convergence of need and possibility?
It’s good to be with you, and I look forward to hearing your stories and what’s on your heart. In the meantime, I will keep on giving God thanks for your faithfulness and for so many other good things.
Grace and peace,
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind… (1 Cor. 1:4-5)