Following hugs and a wonderful piece of cake, Nancy and I depart the Panda House in Saginaw, Michigan following a farewell meal with some close friends. Thanks John and Cheryl and Debbie and Cortney for your friendship. Tomorrow I leave for our new home in Rio Vista, California. Some reflections.
Saginaw was our home for thirty years. We lived 25 years in a beautiful home on Court Street in Saginaw. We watched our daughter grow from pre-school attending KinderCare through her attending Kempton Elementary, South Middle School and Arthur Hill High. Nancy got went to the University of Michigan to get her Master’s Degree in Library Science—followed by a wonderful career as an information specialist with the Saginaw Pubic Libraries and then Dow Chemical. It was always hard to figure out her job description – she was always tackling new projects. A key blessing was years of work in getting her Six Sigma Master’s Black Belt. Emily took classes at both Delta College and Saginaw Valley University—then off to Michigan State University. Her graduation from Michigan State was a highlight in our living in Michigan. Emily’s move to California and building her own family is the primary reason for our move to California so that we can be close to her family. We’re both excited to be close to Kenneth Thomas, our three-year-old grandson. We can now watch him grow as we watched Emily grow.
Church – some would say I was married to my work as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church. While I was in a position to help this urban church move through various transitions, a few highlights of my 28 year tenure were (1) helping the church re-commit to remaining an inner city church in a struggling neighborhood; (2) opening our doors to the East Side Soup Kitchen with the commitment to use our greatest asset, a huge (and expensive) building; (3) careful management of endowment funds; (4) opening our doors to the Women of Color’s Inc and Cathedral District Youth Center when the Soup Kitchen moved to larger digs. I loved preaching and leading worship. I continue to believe that our weekly gathering for worship helped us nurture a bond with God that held us together as a “The living, vibrant Body of Christ / congregation”.
Also married to this congregation, I became close to church members. In addition to weddings and baptisms, I provided pastoral services for families with over 200 church-member funerals. Through the years, I also experienced numerous health issues.
I lament seeing a church transition from over 400 members to less than 100 when I departed in 2013. While I could have remained pastor for several more years, my going on disability was a good decision. After spending numerous years helping the church remain stable in doing ministry, time came for new leadership to help this church discern it’s future and the possibility of closing.
One statement from the Presbyterian Church constitution resonates with me as I write about this experience as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church:
“The church is called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ.” (G-3.0400, BOO, 2005)
Beyond family, I will also miss colleagues in ministry who offered support and encouragement through the years. I will never forget the support from Associate Pastor Tony Patrick. Presbytery Executives and Clerks also top the list of those who helped support me through the years: Bob Lafollette, Hank Snedeker-Meir, Charlie Hurst (a former WAPC Pastor), Bill Davis, Louise Brokaw, Dan Saperstein, George Baird, and Ted McCullough top this list. A special shout-out to Jim Neumann as Saginaw pastors who offered encouragement and support.
New experiences are now before Nancy and me. I have to get used living on Social Security and Pension income. We are blessed with a beautiful home—no worries. I wonder what kind of church home we will find in our new home in Rio Vista, California.
All I know for use, God will continue to walk and support us through the presence of the Living Christ.
I end this blog, from my desk in Saginaw, with these words from Richard Rohr:
“I affirm God’s presence in my life. The challenge is in living with the awareness f God’s presence every day and with every breath I take.”
Saginaw friends and colleagues: God bless. My next blog will be coming from Rio Vista, California.