“You heard the announcement today that Mrs. Garrett will be the interim minister here. I was fortunate when I came. I was…….now remember this folks, I’ve been here a long time. When I came here I warned you I said I’m staying. (laughter)…. Nobody quite believed it. But I was found by a search committee of this church, who, in their time, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and surrounded and undergirded by the prayers of the church set off to find a pastor for that time. And you will have to be the judge of the results of their search; but I have been blessed to have been your pastor these many years. There is a search committee now for this time. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and undergirded by your prayers, which is going to do for you, and with you, what was done for you and with you 26 years ago. We trust it; (pause)… I do.
Here we are in the midst of funeral flowers…..when I leave, I’m not going to do funerals. Don’t try and come around the back door and say “well surely you’ll do one at the funeral home”? Nope, and let me tell you why. You know I love you. (pause)… I came here and grew to love this congregation. I knew I would. (pause) … I’ve had two churches and I’ve loved them both. The first one was hard to leave, I really don’t know what the future is going to hold for me because this is really scary. And we’ll figure some stuff out. BUT, on funerals and weddings I am rock solid and I’ll tell you why. When I came here there was a wonderful interim. Arlan Baillie was the third minister of this church. And during the interim period before I came, this church was a mess and it had been a mess for a long time. There was contention, there was bitterness, some people had left, and they had the sense to call Arlan as the interim because they knew that Arlan Baillie loved this congregation. (pause) He loved you with a profound and deep and pastoral love. The problem was ..(pause).. funerals. Arlan said to me on more than one occasion, “Why do you think you can do this funeral? You don’t know these people”. And I would say, “Arlan, how am I ever going to get to know them if I can’t be their pastor?”
Cy Perkins was dying and Grace, his wife, remained a sweet friend to the end. I loved Cy too and I would go visit Cy in the nursing home and they, Cy and Grace, embraced me as the pastor of this church and when time came for Cy’s funeral there was no doubt who their pastor was.(pause) I want you to do the honor to my successor to love her or him enough to give up whatever fantasies you have about the miraculous job I would do at your funeral (laughter); and I want you to embrace that pastor and I want you to let her or him be your pastor. (pause)
You belong in the congregation under the care of a pastor and teacher; this is where you belong. Don’t try to treat me as a rent-a-pastor. I don’t want to do it and I don’t want to do it not because I don’t love you; I love you (pause)….and I love this church. (pause)….. There were over 20 kids in the junior high youth group Friday night. It was stunning. We’re in a low time aren’t we? not many kids compared to the olden days. 20 kids in the junior high youth group. Parents, keep bringing them. Parents, commit yourselves to their spiritual life, commit yourself to this place, do it. But there you are, these are junior high kids who will not be confirmed by me; Mrs. Garrett may be here. But in this congregation by our successor will be the ones who lay their hands on these children and pray for God’s protection upon them and welcome them into this place and the ones immediately behind them will never know my ministry. They will know you as Christians in this congregation and they will know you as the ones who love them and nurture them in the faith and they will come to know the new pastor as the one who gives guidance and example and hope to them in their time.
This is right. (pause)… This is good. (pause)… This is the way it has to be. When you joined this church you took vows ;(pause) … you made promises. Honor them. (pause)…. Stay. (pause)… Give. (pause)… Love. (pause)…. And be loved. I will never stop loving you, but I love you enough that I will not play games with the life of this congregation. You are the church. You are the people Christ had called to this place.. (pause).. in this time and for the time to come. You will do well. (pause)…. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep hoping. Love one another and for the sake of those coming after us. Be the church. In this place. Thanks be to God. Amen.”
You can listen to this sermon by going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPWcGEpGJr8&index=3&list=PL6J3njaMixIDj6nd0N9nN3pMvp_-GmMcD