Pastor Bob Gross' last message . . .
When I was a kid, whenever someone was going on a vacation or heading out on a new adventure, “Bon Voyage!” is what people said. I’d even heard an occasional, “Happy Trails.” They were wishing people a good journey. Such comments were offered with a sense of joy and anticipation of what will be. Nowadays, it’s much more common for people to say, “Safe Travels,” or “Traveling Mercies.” These comments seem to be motivated more by fear than adventure. There’s danger out there, these comments warn, so be careful, stay safe.
We are now at a fork in the path. We will each go our separate ways. How will we bid our farewells? With joy and anticipation for what may yet be, or fear of the struggles that lie ahead?
In the story books this is where we each go off and live happily ever-after. Real life is not that simple. And yet, I believe there is hope.
Yes, the next few steps will be difficult. You will be unsettled for a time with pulpit supply ministers and, eventually an Interim Pastor, before a Settled Pastor arrives. And yet, there’s hope. I hope that during this time you will discover the gifts within the dark wood. I hope you will discover who you are in a new light, for a new day. I hope that you will share your individual voices, your hopes and dreams in open and honest ways, so that together you may more fully engage the fullness of life and mission as a congregation.
It will be no different for me, or my family, getting to know a new congregation, finding where I fit in God’s plan for their life. And yet, I hope that God will continue to lead, as God has led in the past. I will miss all of you, especially those with whom I worked most closely. I imagine you will miss me too. Therefore, we must make a clean break when I leave.
My last Sunday in worship will be on September 26. I pray that you can be there. My last day at E&R will be on September 30. I will begin at Grace Congregational United Church of Christ in Two Rivers, WI on October 1. When I leave E&R, I will cease to be your Pastor and, therefore, will refrain from contact for the period of one year.
This isn’t because of some rule from the Association, although it is. It’s because it’s the right thing to do. I need to let you go so that you can grieve as necessary, prepare for, and welcome your new Pastor. At the same time, you need to let me go so that I can be available to get to know and become the Pastor of another congregation.
If I run into you in, or around, Waukesha, (in-person or online), I will be happy to see you. I will be happy to know how you are doing. I will be happy to catch you up on how my family is doing and, if you want, we can discuss the Packers. However, I will not discuss church business. I can be a friend, but no longer your Pastor.
My biggest hope is that I will see you all again, someday. On this side of the Jordan or the other. There, we can share our joys, struggles, and triumphs.
Here is a poem by Michael W. Smith, slightly paraphrased, (without regard to meter), by me:
Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil we share,
I can’t believe the hopes God’s granted
Means this chapter in our lives is through.
But we’ll keep you close as always,
It won’t even seem we’ve parted
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong.
And friends are friends forever
When God’s sovereign over them.
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end.
Though it’s hard to let you go,
In God’s hands we know,
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends.