This is my last pastoral letter that will appear in the Traveler, and it is one of many “lasts” that we are experiencing together during this time of pastoral transition. With each of these “lasts,” the reality that as of July 1, I will no longer be your pastor becomes more real. As you can imagine, there are many different emotions that make their way through my heart and mind. It seems to me that those feelings are best conveyed face to face, and so I will attempt to do so in the weeks that remain, whether in sermons, group presentations, or personal conversation.
At the same time, there are also some practical matters that need to be conveyed in this final letter. Specifically, I need to make it very clear that I am duty bound to follow the standard ethical guidelines around pastoral transition. Included in this is the guideline that dictates that I cease to perform pastoral functions for FUMC members and
friends after my last Sunday, which is June 18. During the interim period between then and when your new pastor officially begins, the pastoral needs of the parish will be met by other clergy and qualified laity, under the direction of the Transition Team chaired by Marilyn Ayer. On or around July 5, your new pastor will be in place, which means that after that time, I will not be returning to FUMC in order to conduct funerals, baptisms, and weddings except at the invitation of the pastor-in-charge. I recognize that it would be quite natural for some folks to be inclined to request that I would come back to perform these sorts of services, especially early in this time of transition. However, I ask you to please consider the position that puts both me and the new pastor in. On the one hand, it is not fair to the new pastor to have his or her predecessor continuing to provide pastoral care and services to folks that are no longer the predecessor’s responsibility. At the same time, I will have my hands full with taking care of the needs of the folks in my new church and community. Please know that you will always be in my thoughts and prayers as you go through the high points and struggles of your lives, but that you will also be under the capable care of your new pastor.
Speaking of your new pastor, Jim Shook: I have known Pastor Jim as a colleague for a number of years, but only as this transition process has begun have I had a chance to really get to know him. As that process has unfolded, I have become increasingly confident that Jim will do an outstanding job as your pastor. I trust that all of you will welcome Jim and his wife Cal as warmly as you welcomed Wendy and me when we arrived four years ago. I have great hopes and expectations that you all of you will forge a strong and lasting bond with Pastor Jim.
I will miss you both collectively and individually, but know that I will be watching from a distance and praying for you and for FUMC always with both gratitude and affection.
In Evergreen love, Pastor Tom