Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Appointment Changes

When I dragged my beautiful bride away from her family so that I could attend Boston University to study for the ministry, I promised her twin sister that we would be gone three years. That was in 2003. We have talked many times over the years about the appropriate time to move back to New Mexico, but there was always something else going on that kept us here.

But, last spring, knowing that the conference was probably going to want to move us soon, as well as being ready for the opportunities that leading my own church would afford, Linda said “it’s time to go back home.” So in consultation with the District Superintendent as well as with the Staff Parish Relations Committee, we began working with the New Mexico Annual Conference to seek an appointment there.

There have been many ups and downs to the process and after it looked like we might have to move to a different conference to start or take a part-time appointment in New Mexico, through God’s grace, two weeks ago a full-time appointment opened up and it was offered to us. This is a true blessing for us as transferring between conferences can be very difficult. For example, the New England Annual Conference has stopped taking in transfers unless they are specifically recruited by the conference, and New Mexico is only taking in one person this year, and that, obviously, is me.

The appointment is a two-point charge, meaning I will serve two churches. The main church and the parsonage are located in Melrose, New Mexico, which is about 25 miles outside of Clovis. (Clovis is famous for being the site of the earliest known human habitation in North America, as well as the “Clovis sound” made famous by Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings.) Melrose is a town of about 700 people, 10% of whom attend the Methodist church. The smaller church is in House, about thirty miles from Melrose, a town of 70, 15 of whom come to the Methodist church.

On Easter morning I talked about times in our lives when we can be both fearful and joyful at the same time, just like the women at the tomb, and this is one of those times. We are joyful to be heading home and being closer to our families, but with all change comes fear of the unknown. We are excited about new possibilities and opportunities, but sad to be leaving our community here at Sudbury UMC.

Our last Sunday here will be June 19th during which I have been asked to deliver my final sermon to you. More information will come out about the service and other special events that day in an invitation from SPRC. We will be packing the truck on the weekend of June 25th, when we will need some help, and we will also be having several moving sales and would love for you to come take some of our stuff.

We have been blessed to have been able to serve here for four years and the entire family has wonderful memories of this congregation that we will carry for the rest of our lives. It is where Abigail was baptized, and where both of them have grown up. You have allowed Linda to be the “pastor’s wife” in the way she chose, which is a true blessing, and I have learned a lot about what it means to be a minister here. Please know that wherever we go to serve we will carry you with us.

I thank you for the opportunity of being able to serve you and I pray that God will continue to bless you and this congregation.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day Prayer

This Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day; a day in which I hope we all recognize and give thanks not just to our mothers but to all of the women in our lives who have been special to us, who have mothered us in their own unique ways. This year I am approaching Mother’s Day in a different frame of mind because of two experiences I had last Sunday.

The confirmation class went to attend worship at our sister church, Greenwood Memorial UMC, in Dorchester. During the worship, Marilyn Forman talked about the upcoming Mother’s Day Walk for Peace which raises money to work on ending the violence that takes the lives of our young people on the streets of Boston every year. As Marilyn was asking for support of the congregation she talked about how violence had affected the lives of their friends, neighbors and some of the members of their congregation, and this was the opportunity to bring attention to this important issue. It was, she said, the time for mothers to take a stand against violence in their community.

After returning to Sudbury, I then made my way over to the library to offer a prayer at a gathering of families from Sudbury whose children and spouses are serving in the military. The event was organized by the Sudbury Military Family Support Network which was created by our own Patty Houpt. During the course of the event, the families of our soldiers (including the Houpts and Tom Gerbe) stood to introduce themselves and to say where their children are serving or had served. The majority of those speaking were mothers who talked about the sleepless nights they have experienced while their children are/were in harms way. With the Milley family present the sense of danger and loss was just as prevalent as it was in hearing Marilyn speak at Greenwood. Although I did not hear the testimonies in worship last Sunday, I have been told that they too were moving reflections on the many aspects of being a mother.

In the Buddhist tradition there is a form of a breath prayer called tonglen. In this practice, you breathe in the suffering of the world and breathe out happiness and peace. It is an offering of compassion to ourselves, to others and to the world. Here is a tonglen prayer written by DeLona Campos-Davis for Mother’s Day:

I breathe in the daily frustrations small as they are, big as they can seem
I breath out patience for us all.

I breathe in the loneliness of days spent mothering on our own
I breathe out connection, community, compassion.

I breathe in the brokenness not being enough in the world
I breathe out wholeness leaving ideals behind, truth.

I breathe in the boredom: diapers, cooking, same every day
I breathe out simple pleasures: swings, finger painting, rocks.

I breathe in the exhaustion, the worry, the fear
I breathe out the calm energy, excitement.

I breathe in the rage at your plight, your place, your life
I breathe out peace, contentment, courage.

On this Mother’s Day, as on every other day, may we pray for peace, for comfort, for reconciliation, for understanding, for mutuality and community, and, in the words of Julia Ward Howe, whose poem started it all, “charity, mercy and patience.”