DATE: Wednesday 2006.10.04
TO: Rev. Rob Smith
CC: Youth, Parents, and Vestry of Church of the Apostles
RE: For Everything There Is A Season…
Greetings in the Name of Christ,
My brothers and sisters in the Lord, the Teacher reminds us in Ecclesiastes that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to plant and a time to harvest… a time to weep and a time to laugh." Over the last 4 1/2 years I have shared many tears, and even more laughter, with you all. You have planted love and joy in my heart that is impossible to put into words, and I hope I have planted Christ in your lives as well. And now the Lord has harvested what you have sown into my life, and has prepared another field for me to work in as the college chaplain at Southern Methodist University.
This decision comes with much sorrow and even more prayer. And I want you to know that it was not the result of anything that could have been done "better" or differently by Church of the Apostles. Father Rob is an incredible boss, pastor, friend, mentor, and colleague. I have never worked for anyone who I have meshed as well with. Cindy, Debbie, and Sharon have been an incredible support to me, and have always encouraged me, and constantly reminded me to keep all my T's crossed and all of my I's dotted. Without great administrators, people like me would be completely lost in life! And the families and youth of Apostles! What can I say? Never have I been in a family of faith that is so nurturing, encouraging, honest, loving, faithful, challenging, nurturing, and all-out-awesome as you are. Lord, how I will miss you all! Words cannot describe what you mean to me.
And yet, the Lord has told me that my season here is done. My first indication was in Del Rio on the summer 2005 mission trip. On that trip the Lord told me that summer 2006 would be my last mission trip as a youth minister. I did not know what to do with that word from the Lord, so I sat on it and only told Kim. Later that year I began working with a half-dozen youth ministers to create a cooperative ministry to reach community college students and young adults. It was at that time that I began to really have a heart for college ministry, and realize how sorely lacking our diocese is in reaching them. It is like we raise up young men and women in Christ, only to graduate them at age 18 into a yawning chasm of nothingness. When they graduate, it seems like they either fall away from the church entirely, or join campus ministries from other denominations who are reaching out to college students. And I do not have to tell you what this does to raising up the next generation of clergy and lay leaders in the Episcopal church. We are all witnessing the results of this leadership crisis in the national church right now.
I seriously began thinking that college ministry was something the Lord might be calling me to in a few years. Little did I know that His call would come so soon. When the college chaplain at SMU left suddenly this summer, after only one semester of ministry, the college commission met to figure out what to do next. My name was brought up in the meeting, and I was asked if I was interested. My first inclination was to say no, but I felt like I should pray about it. After praying, I sincerely felt that it would be disobedience for me not to apply. After I applied, I prayed that if this was not the right move, that the Lord would close the doors on me, and shut the process down. Every conceivable door has been opened wide for me. Every one.
After discussing seriously with Father Rob what was going on, I again prayed earnestly, with the weight of Apostles on my heart, "Lord, is this the right thing to do?" The answer came back clearly. He has raised me up for such a time as this. If I do not do this now, I will never have the opportunity again to do college ministry. I will be a parish priest later in life, not a college chaplain. And, in decades to come, if I want to raise up others to do effective youth and young adult ministry, I must learn how to be effective first. I have learned youth ministry well. It is time to learn young adult ministry with the same proficiency.
I know I am needed at Apostles and will be dearly missed. And leaving here will literally be like ripping out a piece of my heart. But I have to follow the call of God, or risk disobedience to what He has made me for. And every family who has kids in the youth program knows that soon (and sooner than you think) you will be graduating your kids into the "real world" where they will not have the safety and boundaries of home to protect them anymore. Every family hopes and prays that their child will go to college or to their career and still stay close to Christ, and find a faith community where their purpose in life can be nurtured. Everyone hopes their child will find a mentor and a pastoral presence who will care for them while they are away from their family. I want to be that pastor. I want to develop that community. God has called me to it.
And I need your love, support, and prayers to do that. And I need one more thing as well. Your forgiveness. Because I know the feelings of loss and abandonment that come with a departure like this. Please forgive me. I am completely sure that what I am doing is orchestrated by God, but that does not make it any less difficult. So, please forgive me.
My last day at Apostles will be Sunday, October 22nd. We will have a Servant Sunday on the 15th, as well as regular youth programming until that day. On Wednesday the 18th I would like to have a meeting with all youth and parents at 7pm at Church to talk about the shape of the transition process (this will be a business meeting). I would like to end with a going away party on the afternoon of the 22nd. And, although I am leaving, I will still be very much a part of our Diocese family, and available for questions and consultation should the need arise.
Wow, that was difficult to write. I am sure it is difficult to read. May the Lord Jesus Christ grant us the comfort of His Holy Spirit as we deal with our time of grief, and may He pour out His wisdom upon us as we transition to the new realities in our corporate lives. Amen+
May Christ fill your lives to overflowing now and always,
P.S. I love you all deeply, and I hope you know that.
P.P.S. (1) I still plan to serve on the Apostles delegation to Diocese Convention; (2) Kim and I plan to fulfill our pledge to the building campaign; (3) I would like to still teach confirmation for my kids and families who are currently in the program from 8:30-10:30am on Sundays.