Sunday evening I did one of the most difficult things yet in my ministry context: I shared with a group of faithful and loving people at THE WALK [FaithWalk] that God has opened up a new doorway of opportunity. But, anytime we talk about significant change our emotions are stirred deeply.
After 20 years living in North Carolina, and in my 14th year as a United Methodist pastor, we again stand at the brink of something new. For my family and I, the opportunity I am referring to means moving to the Pacific Northwest before summer's end, as I have been named the Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church. We will be moving to the Seattle area to be near the conference office, and my target start date is September 1st.
This opportunity is one that I could have never imagined as a pastor of the local church. I have spent a good bit of time in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Portland, OR where I did my doctoral work, and in Seattle, WA and on Orcas Island, where I spend quality time with my friend Leonard Sweet. Even so, I could have never imagined what God was up to.
In my new position, I will be overseeing new church development and congregational vitality in the Pacific Northwest Conference, which consists of the state of Washington, combined with northern Idaho. Additionally, I will be working in this same capacity in support of the Episcopal Area, which includes Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. If I could design my dream job, based on my vantage, this would be it.
Over my pastoral career, all three of my appointments have been new church development projects, intertwined with discovering new ways of achieving congregational vitality. Through trial and error, and failures and successes, I have learned a lot. Last year I was asked to join the General Board of Discipleship and our Path 1 initiative in a limited consulting role as a Path 1 Associate, working to support our denomination in its national church planting movement.
My passion for new church development and reaching the unchurched and disconnected has allowed me to do some specialize work within my own conference, such as The Syndeo Project, serving as a mentor to future and potential church planters, and exploring creative ways to intersect culture and elevate the Gospel. However, at this point on my journey, I am blown away at the new adventure God is unfolding before me and my family.
All of this has happened in a relatively short period of time, which has made the last few days very difficult.
From the challenge of sitting down with key leaders and staff, to Sunday evening's announcement and discussion with the community of faith at THE WALK [FaithWalk], it is very difficult and painful to realize that our "family" is going to endure a significant change. But just as God has opened a new door of opportunity for me as a pastor and leader in our church, God is doing the same for THE WALK. We just have to get through the sadness of an impending separation, in order to more clearly see what God is up to.
There is no doubt that God has been moving in spectacular ways in the life of THE WALK. When I came to restart FaithWalk, we stepped out in bold faith with a very small group of people who decided to be boldly obedient to God. We stepped into the great unknown of God only to discover God moving in powerful and transformational ways over the last 8+ years. We have grown together in so many ways, rapidly adding to our numbers, and working to impact the greater community and region in meaningful ways. THE WALK is deeply a part of who I am as a Christian and a pastor in the UMC. And I am deeply intertwined as a part of the loving, diverse, and inclusive Body that makes up the community of faith that we call "family" and home.
This may sound strange, considering the circumstances, but for anyone who participates in the ministry of THE WALK, it is a statement that is in keeping with the very core of who we are as a community of faith: I cannot wait to see what God is up to in the unfolding story of THE WALK [FaithWalk]! God has assembled an incredible group of misfits who are educated, qualified, committed, passionate, and loving. And their impact is going to continue to be far-reaching. It has already stretched to the other side of the United States, set to impact the Pacific Northwest, and it is on its way to further impact the world. No doubt.
There will be more to share and say, but I wanted to write this blog post and share what God is unfolding as our next chapter in the life of my family — a move to the pacific northwest. Your prayers are appreciated for a smooth transition for all who are involved.