"Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell…live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you… The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Corinthians 13:11 and 13).
It has been a privilege to be your pastor for the past 12 years. Together we have accomplished much and served God faithfully. As I look back over these years, there are many great memories that I will treasure forever.
We have celebrated marriages and marriage renewals. We have baptized children, youth, and adults. Remember the promises you made at their baptisms and continue to nurture them in the Christian life. I know you will. We have confirmed our youth and watched as they grew. We blessed them as they graduated high school and have marveled over the responsible adults they have become. We have welcomed new members into our church and have been blessed as they have become a part of us, sharing their gifts and graces in our community.
There have been goodbyes too. I recall those who have moved away, whom we miss, yet we know are a blessing in their new towns. I remember and honor those faithful saints who have been received into the Heavenly Kingdom. They touched our lives and even now as I think of them a tear comes to my eye.
The ministry of Wilmington United Methodist Church is powerful. We are a church of mission and care. We send people out in mission, locally and nationally. We care for members and non-members, holding them in our prayers. We teach our children and welcome guest into our church. We understand that all people are a gift of God to whom we are called to join in ministry. We recognize that an important part of ministry is care for the earth, with which we have been called by God to be faithful stewards. We honor the gifts and graces of our children and youth. They are not "hushed," but encourage to lead worship, both as liturgist and through special music. We support their programs, knowing that they are our programs. We recognize that our children and youth are not the church of tomorrow, but an important part of the church of today, with an important role to play in our ministry.
I am especially proud that we went through the reconciling process. In many ways it was hard. Yet, it was faithful. It has helped prepare us for the journey that the entire denomination is traveling. I know that not everyone agreed with the outcome of our vote, but we have committed to live together in our differences. This is important. As John Wesley said, "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may."
On personal note, you have been a blessing to my family. You welcomed us with open arms. The very first Sunday we were here, you gave us a welcoming basket and took us to a Lowell Spinners game. It was a wonderful way to be greeted. Then, I had the opportunity to meet the town at the pizza booth. You introduced me to so many people, that by the end of the week, I felt like I was already a part of the community. You made my daughters feel at home, taught them, and guided them. They made lifelong friends here. You honored Sandra's ministry and even invited her to special programs.
It is with sadness that I consider that the "we" of Wilmington United Methodist Church will soon become "you." Yet, this sadness is mingled with hope, expectation, and joy. The Rev. Peter Hey is a wonderful and gifted pastor. I feel good knowing that I am placing you in his hands. He will care for you and lead this church forward into a bright future. As I consider the history of this church from its founding, there have been many good times of faithful ministry. However, I believe that the best days are ahead. Rev. Hey will help guide you there. He is a pastor of vision.
Welcome Reverend Peter and Cathy into the church. Care for them faithfully. Celebrate their ministry and the bright future of Wilmington United Methodist.
Thank you for the past 12 years. You will remain in my hearts and prayers.
Now and always, your brother in Christ,