New places, new experiences & new opportunities

As we bid farewell to the Wray’s and blessed Shelby on her way to a new ministry, I uttered these words in worship, “Our church is constantly changing. People come and go. Babies are born. Children grow up. People commit themselves to one another. Loved ones and friends among us come to the end of their lives. Individuals move into our community and church life. Others leave us, moving away to new places, new experiences, and new opportunities. In the not-too-distant future we will hear those words again.

The picture accompanying this article was taken by Sue Manzke as I arrived on my first Sunday at E&R, (you might be able to make out her reflection in the glass door). A few days ago, I sent these words to the Church Council:

“It is with a bittersweet heart that I write this letter as formal notification that I am resigning from my position as Senior Pastor at Evangelical & Reformed United Church of Christ. The last seventeen months of pandemic have given me pause to reconsider the remainder of my career and I have decided to return to interim ministry. I have accepted a call to serve as an interim pastor. Please consider this my official 90-day notice. My last day will be October 23, 2021.

I am grateful for nearly six years of ministry alongside many caring and dedicated disciples. I’ve greatly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunities I’ve had to witness the spiritual growth of those who participated in small group studies like Unbinding the Gospel and Catch Fire in 50 Days, and by those who grew through involvement in Pancake Breakfasts, Hope Center meals, Habitat for Humanity, Family Promise and the Community Picnics. I have a deeper appreciation for the art of worship and the impact a few people can make when they work together as we used Worship Design Studio resources. I am also grateful for the Visioning work we were able to accomplish with the Church Council. These experiences will empower my future ministry.

I believe that God, who was with you before I arrived, is with you still. I pray that your future will be bright as you continue to engage God’s mission in the world.”

There will be time for formal and informal good-byes in the weeks ahead. For now, there’s ministry to accomplish.

Perhaps it’s serendipity, and perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit at work, that our next worship series is Quest: Travel as a Spiritual Act. Whether you travel far away or see your local surroundings as if for the first time, pilgrimage has long been a spiritual practice, and “journey” a deeply-felt metaphor for our spiritual lives. “Quest” comes from the Latin root meaning “ask, seek.” This four-week worship series will encourage us to begin to take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and where God is calling us to be, as we open ourselves more fully to the curiosity, wonder, reflection, and transformation that travelers–not merely tourists–experience when they choose to immerse themselves in soul-widening adventures.

It would be wonderful to see you during this series. I think it will make a difference in your life. I hope that you will come to worship, in person or online, during this series. Will you join us?

Would you like a visit? At home or at the church? Please give me a call, (440) 506-3258, text, or an e-mail, revbobgross@gmail.com. I can come to you, we could chat on the phone, we could also Zoom, whichever you prefer. I look forward to hearing from you.