Dear The Belwood Charge Community,
As in the words of the Apostle Paul in his correspondence with the Church at Philippi,
“To all those in [Belwood] who are God’s people in Christ Jesus, along with your supervisors and servants. May the grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Philippians 1:1-2, CEB). I write you this letter because I want to give thanks to you for your ministry and all that you have blessed me with in being your pastor for two-and-a-half years. I celebrate alongside you the many awesome things God has done in and through you for the benefit and growing of God’s kingdom!
The United Methodist Church is unique in that all pastors are within a covenant we call the itinerant system. All churches and faith communities are connected in that they will never be without an appointed pastor. Pastors are appointed on a yearly basis under the direction of the resident Bishop (ours being Bishop Paul Leeland of The Western North Carolina Conference). It was with great pleasure that in July I was appointed again to be the pastor of The Belwood Charge for another year. However, there are instances in which emergencies take place, and appointments become open and must be filled. A mid-year appointment is not very common, however, it happens and can be quite difficult for pastors and congregations who have already made plans for a year in ministry together. With this being said, I write the following to you all.
As your pastor, it is always my intent to be transparent, open, and honest with you with all that is going on within the pastoral office, and within the congregations and community that encapsulate Belwood. On Wednesday, September 7, I received a phone call from Rev. David Christy, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Gastonia. Rev. Christy informed me that our District Superintendent, Rev. Angela Pleasants, had given permission to contact me to begin conversation in regards to being appointed as Associate Pastor at First Gastonia. Following this phone conversation, I was invited to speak with the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee of First Gastonia on Monday, September 12. I was very candid in the meeting about the blessings and the great community and appointment I have been given here in Belwood. I was informed during the meeting that I was one of three candidates that had been contacted regarding the immediate Associate Pastor position opening; I, of course, counted this as an honor, yet, I was not looking nor searching for an immediate move away from this community of faith.
After two weeks, I was contacted by Rev. Christy on the afternoon of Sunday, September 25, informing me that the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee of First Gastonia, himself, and our District Superintendent, Rev. Pleasants, would be recommending me to be appointed to First Gastonia as Associate Pastor to Bishop Paul Leeland. On Monday, September 26, I was contacted by our District Superintendent, Rev. Pleasants, that Bishop Leeland approved my appointment to be the Associate Pastor of First Gastonia beginning November 1, 2016. Upon consultation with the District Superintendent, Pastor-Parish Committee Chairperson Michelle Royster was asked to call a meeting on Monday, October 3 so that Rev. Pleasants would be able to talk with The Belwood Charge PPRC regarding the events that had transpired over the last month. Rev. Pleasants described the events, and listened intently to the needs of this charge and community. With great and respectful candor, the committee was able to describe what they would best want and need in a pastor to continue to move this charge forward in ministry with all that has already been started.
With all that has been stated previously, it is with sincerest gratitude, love, and humbleness that I give thanks to you for allowing me to be your pastor for the past two-and-a-half years, and to share with you that Sunday, October 23 will be my last Sunday in worship leadership, and I will be your pastor until October 31, 2016. Beginning November 1, I will be the Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church, Gastonia. Because of your great hospitality, your love for God and neighbor, I am able to depart Belwood being a more well-rounded pastor, spiritual being, and have a heart that is full of gratitude and love for all of you and for all you have taught me. You will forever be within my life as you have brought such great insight and nurturing in how to build relationships within a community of believers, that I will always be indebted to you. One of my favorite musicals is “Les Miserable,” and in the musical is a song entitled, “A Heart Full of Love,” and with a bit of editing, these words ring true to who you are and will forever be to me:
A heart full of love … A heart full of song
A heart full of love … No fear, no regret
A heart full of love … A heart full of you
A single look and then I knew
From today … Every day
For it isn’t a dream … Not a dream after all.
My time with you may have felt like a dream for most of the hours, weeks, months, and years I have been with you all; but what I have come to realize is that it was not a dream after all, rather a beautiful reality of living within a body of Christ. From the single moment of meeting for the first time with the PPRC in May of 2014, my heart has been full of love for all you have done for me, and all we have been able to do together. Without any big words or elegant phrases, all I can conjure up is: “Thank You.”
Following a Pastor-Parish Relations Committee Meeting this week, PPRC chairperson, Michelle Royster, will be able to announce and have more information about your new pastor. This information will be made available for printing and sharing in the upcoming bulletins and newsletter. I am encouraged and prayerful for the ministry that you all will continue together, as again I turn to Paul’s words to the Philippian church:
I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart … God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God. (Philippians 1:3-11, CEB)
Continue doing the work God has called you all to do, not by anything I have done; rather, by all that God has gifted you with, to go and do! Continue being The Belwood Charge: an embracing, loving, open, and passionate body of believers seeking to make disciples for the transformation of the world!
It is with sincerest Love, Grace, & Peace I write and share these words,
Forever Blessed to be and to have been your pastor,