Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Connection and Continuity

This past Sunday, I led worship at India Hook as the pastor for the last time. It was a very special worship service: we had a baptism, we celebrated Holy Communion, and we had a closing litany to lead us to forgive, affirm, and release both pastor and people. We celebrated five years of ministry together with Sunday dinner and plenty of hugs.

As part of the final service, I wore an elder’s stole that was not bought for me, and I doubt I will ever wear it again. Remember that the stole worn by pastors in worship symbolizes our authority and our service as they are given to us at our ordination. The stole I wore not only symbolized the authority given to me to preach and offer the sacraments, but it also symbolized the continuity and connection of the clergy who serve the churches of this annual conference. I wore the stole of India Hook’s next pastor, the Reverend Steve Gaither. At the conclusion of Sunday’s service, I removed Steve’s stole from my shoulders and placed it on the Lord’s Table. On June 22nd, Steve will place that stole on his shoulders. We as clergy are connected not only by the covenant we share, but by the people we serve.

The line of pastors at India Hook continues forward as it has for over 150 years. Steve will lovingly and passionately live out his call as he serves India Hook as I have had the honor of serving that church for the past five years. The continuity of the itinerant system is one of the strengths of the United Methodist Church. Long periods of time do not pass for a church to be without clergy leadership. Bill Heustess left India Hook on the morning of June 11, 2003 and I moved into the parsonage that afternoon. I was here for the unexpected death of a parishioner less than a week after Bill left and I arrived. On June 18, 2008, Steve Gaither follows me as the new pastor here, while I follow Scott Wachter as the new pastor at Buford Street in Gaffney.

That is if I can finish packing…

1 comment:

Steve said...

Joseph, that's a wonderful practice of wearing the stole of the incoming pastor on your last Sunday there. Very strong message in that. Thanks for sharing it.