Many years ago, the Rev. Jack Heacock advised me that when I moved to a new appointment, I could tell how I would be treated by the way the previous pastor was treated. In other words, a church or individual who was generous and gracious with the previous pastor would be generous and gracious with me. Conversely, a church or individual who was critical and adversarial toward the previous pastor would be critical and adversarial toward me. He also advised me that Over the course of several appointment changes, I discovered just how correct about that Jack was.
I’ve thought of this over the past few weeks. We are approaching the season of UMC pastoral changes. Our son, Forrest, and his family will be leaving FUMC Port Lavaca to lead Asbury UMC Corpus Christi. I’ve shared some of Jack’s wisdom with him. And I think he listened?
Closer to home for Bethany, however, is the change in appointment for the Rev. Sheri Clifton from Bethany to North Shore UMC Canyon Lake. Sheri has shared life and ministry with us for 16 years. While we are excited for this next step in her ministry, we are also all feeling the grief of her impending departure. Tears and smiles are both appropriate. By the time you read this, her farewell reception will have occurred. But if you missed it, or didn’t get a chance to write a note, I want to encourage you to write her a note expressing your appreciation for all the blessings she has brought to Bethany in the past 16 years. (And be sure to include Daniel, Luke, and Zach. They have also been a part of life and ministry at Bethany.) If you get it to the church office, we will be sure it gets to her and her family.
About a week after you write that note, I ask you to write another, welcoming the Rev. Don McAvoy and wife, Michelle, to Bethany. Anticipate the blessings we will share together and fill your note with warm and loving welcome. Let us welcome the McAvoys as warmly and graciously as we say “good-bye” to the Cliftons.
UMC pastors are not cookie-cutter versions of each other. With every change of pastors, there are changes of ministries. That requires some adjustment, but it also brings new blessings. When our family moved to Llano, we were advised to move with the understanding that this was God’s plan for us and the church. Doing that opened both us and the church to all the great things God had in store for us during those years. Let’s say “good-bye” to the Cliftons and “welcome” to the McAvoys with the understanding that – as emotional as it may be – this is God’s plan. That will open the Cliftons, the McAvoys, North Shore and Bethany to all the richness and blessing God intends for us.
Remember to write those notes!