Dear Members and Friends of the Universalist Church,
On Thursday, April 2, I accepted an invitation to become the candidate for the settled ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock, Arkansas, a great honor for me. I will be at the Little Rock church from April 26 through May 3 for candidating week, a time for the people of the congregation and me to get to know one another. After my sermon on May 3, the congregation will vote whether to call me as their minister. If the congregation votes to call me to serve with them, Roger and I plan to move to Arkansas sometime over the summer. Many of you know that Roger and I grew up in Arkansas, a place we love and a place whose hills and waters and trees are home to our souls.
I have been very happy serving here as your minister and over the years I’ve declined offers from other congregations to explore new directions for my ministry. Ministers are always checking in with their sense of call and each time I asked where I should serve, the answer was clear: right here, alongside all of you. Although I knew that there could come a time when Roger and I would return closer to our roots, I didn’t know when that might be. After I learned last summer that the Little Rock church was looking for a minister, I began a time of deep discernment about the direction of my calling.
When I let you all know in January that this would be my last year of ministry with you, I told you I wasn’t sure exactly where my calling might lead – for then I had no definite answers, only questions, as I was still in discernment about the direction of my call. My discernment process, while inspiring and life-giving, has been, as I said in my January 18 sermon, excruciating. I knew I loved all of you and our ministry together but still, I have been surprised by the depths of my pain, even in the midst of my joy, as my sense of call leads me to an exciting and innovative ministry in a place I have always loved. As we learn in life, we can hold both joy and sorrow at the same time, and our pain over saying good-bye is a sign that we have shared something deep and powerful and real.
During our time together, you have taught me the most important lesson of ministry: how to love a congregation. As we prepare to say good-bye to one another, I know that no matter where life leads any of us, the love that we have given and the love that we have received remains a part of us, and goes with us wherever we may go. I’ll have more to say in my May 17 farewell sermon but, for now, I want you all to know that I hold a deep and abiding love for you, the people of this congregation, and I am grateful for the privilege and honor of serving for these past thirteen years as your minister.
With love and gratitude,