Before, it was a hypothetical…, an elusive word, a goal planned for over the years, decades really. Now, spoken out loud, it became tangible.
Like the Word of God, familiar and often memorized, but when spoken, even just read in the midst of the congregation, taking on a power that goes far beyond the individual letters strung together on a page.
It is now real, living in our lives.
My retirement will be effective July 1, 2019, and the immediate response Sunday was warm and encouraging, sad and reluctant all at once.
In the United Methodist Church retirement is mandatory at age 72.
As United Methodists, we affirm a shared wisdom for our denomination, covenented in the Book of Discipline, as a guide to knowing God’s will. And so, it is with a sense of God’s calling that I reach that age next year.
It’s a little scary. It’s something Joanne and I have never done before. We’ve seen it in the lives of many good friends and church members over the years, …but now it’s personal!!!
We are now praying to discern God’s will, planning and envisioning our actions for this new season together.
That’s the beauty of a vital, thriving congregation such as ours: we are a dynamic blend of individuals and families, from many cultures and different stages of life.
We are true Brothers and Sisters in Christ, living with each other; learning, encouraging, supporting, helping, and healing each other.
That’s one of the reasons that I love the church so. It doesn’t just offer a vision of family, IT IS a real, holy, and heavenly family in Jesus Christ.
Our initial plans start with remaining in the home that all of you have been so instrumental in purchasing. LUMC provided a crucial down payment loan and a regular housing allowance that enabled its purchase. By next July that loan will have been paid in full and ready for the next appointed clergy to use.
That’s how it is with United Methodists.
The clergy are not searched and contracted by each individual church, but sent out, appointed, by the resident bishop of the area, in our case Bishop Grant Hagiya*.
My last Sunday will be June 30 and the next pastor will arrive July 1 and be preaching July 7. There is no interim period, no search committee.
Our Staff/Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), led by Jean Youngquist, will be meeting with the District Superintendent, Rev. Jim Powell, over the next six months to prepare for this change.
Together they will draw up a description of our congregation, share our newly revised Mission / Vision / Core Valueswith him, and express your hopes and dreams for the next clergy leadership to him.
Then, in prayer and in Christian consultation with the other District Superintendents of our California-Pacific Annual Conference, Bishop Hagiya will appoint a new lead pastor here.
As for us, we will continue to live here in the Antelope Valley and be part of the life and community we’ve come to love here.
For at least a year we will be traveling to the homes of family and friends around the country, worshipping in many places with many congregations with one major exception.
We will not be a part of Lancaster UMC for that year. It would be unfair for the new pastor to have us hanging around.
Once again, the UMC in its wisdom has experience with this and given us our boundaries.
Joanne will continue her Professional Speaker’s Bureau career so we’ll only be “semi-retired.” But God is already putting on our heart some great adventures.
They include a trip and pilgrimage to Europe in 2020**. We’ll start in Oberammergau, Germany, travel to Venice, Florence and Assisi, stopping in Rome for three days.
It will be a prayerful journey, not rushed but lingering in certain places to sit quietly, read scripture, sing together and become inspired.
We hope to take such pilgrimage trips to England, Asia and places in the Americas. Perhaps we’ll even take some adult “Mission Trips” as well!
And we hope to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus through Workshops on Prayer, Real Love, God’s Heavenly Kingdom, Discerning God’s Will and Resurrection Families wherever there is a congregation to share them with.
We've begun a "post-retirement" website: www.AgapeJourneys.com, that will be the hub of our future activities with all of you. We hope you visit it and find inspiring things to do for your soul and for your church community.
And so we begin… as we thank God that we have a congregation like Lancaster UMC to surround us with love.
It is truly a journey into the unknown for us and we thank God for all of you. We approach it surrounded by your love, with apprehension, but with lots of prayer.
So…! There is almost a full year between now and then. A year filled with vital and active ministry, lots of lives changed by God’s unconditional love in Jesus, lots of hopes and dreams to explore.
And, as always, it’s all about spiritual growth, with God’s Holy Spirit leading us forward, assuring us of a future filled with hope.
What scripture has stayed with you this week?
What have others learned about Jesus Christ because of you?
How goes it with your soul?
Grace and Peace,
*Sat. Sept. 22 LUMCwill host a Bishop’s Rally: “The Way Forward”,specifically for the Lay Leadership of all the UMC churches from Northridge to Independence.
Be sure to plan on being here for that great, daylong event!
**Want to join us? 20-30 people will be on this tour. It’s easy. Simply save $250/month for the next 24 months! Details are at www.agapejourneys.com