At the December meeting of the Consistory, I shared the following announcement and I wanted to share it also with the rest of the congregation at this time:
"I am planning on retiring from active ministry on June 30, 2019, at which time I will be turning 65. This will be a time of transition for Immanuel Church, but it will also offer the excitement of a new beginning with a new pastor. Dr. Don Longbottom, our Conference Minister, will be assisting the congregation with obtaining an interim pastor and beginning the search process for a called pastor. Sue and I will continue to reside in Spring, but we will transfer our membership to another UCC congregation in the Houston area, most likely Plymouth UCC in Spring. I will assist in the transition in whatever ways I am called upon until June 30, but I will not interfere with the ministry of the interim pastor or the newly-called pastor, in order to insure a strong and healthy relationship between Immanuel Church and its new pastoral leadership. You will always be in our hearts and in our prayers. Immanuel Church is a special place, and I believe that God has special plans for Immanuel in the years to come. "
As I wrote in report to the Consistory, I truly do believe that God has special plans for Immanuel Church. I am not just saying that to be nice. I have served as your pastor now for 23½ years. I have seen the amazing things God has done through Immanuel Church. I have seen the way you welcome people and embrace them. I have seen the way you pick people up when they are down. I have seen you share the love of Jesus with everyone, wherever they are on their life’s journey. I have seen you grow in your mission giving, exponentially. I have seen you undertake and maintain a commitment to a New Beginnings initiative of outreach into the community.
And I have seen your willingness to make changes when those changes were needed to share Christ with a changing world.
Having seen God already do so many amazing things through this church, why would I not believe that God will continue to do even more amazing things through you? Yes, you have made me a believer in what God can do when people are open to listening to God’s call to them through the church. I also believe that these next six months are not going to be a time for us to coast. There is too much Christian service and witness that needs to be done, so I don’t think that God is going to give us a rest. In other words, I may be retiring, but Immanuel Church is not retiring, and God is not retiring.
There will be changes with the arrival of new pastoral leadership, but I encourage you to welcome those changes rather than fear them. I encourage you to seek God’s guidance through prayer and open discussion. I encourage you to be honest about your hopes and your fears, but to realize that this will be a time to dream and plan for Immanuel Church’s exciting future.
I have spoken with our Conference Minister, Dr. Don Longbottom, and he will be preaching at Immanuel Church on January 13 and meeting with the Consistory to brief them on the search process, beginning with the formation of a search committee. Dr. Don will also assist you with acquiring an interim minister to lead Immanuel Church while the search for a called pastor is underway. I believe that you will be blessed by Dr. Don’s leadership and presence in the search process.
So may this be a time for us to savor these days of serving Christ together, a time for remembering the many ways God has blessed us in the special relationship of church and pastor, and a time for welcoming the new things that God has yet planned for us on the journeys that are before us.
Blessings and Peace,