On January 14, 2008, I began my ministry at First Presbyterian Church. When I accepted the call to be your Associate Minister for Pastoral Care, I told the members of the APNC (Julie Caldwell, Bruce Grier, Jane Ives, Mike James, Mary Margaret Porter, Woods Potts and Hank Ralston) that I intended to be here for a long time. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant and couldn’t have known what that would look like. But I knew that I was excited to be a part of what God was doing in this place.
This month, I celebrate ten years as one of your pastors.
These past ten years have been rich, both professionally and personally. Many things have changed, and in reflecting upon some of those things, I wanted to share a few of them with you.
In the time since my ministry here began,
Charlotte has had 7 mayors.
The Panthers have had 2 head coaches and 3 starting quarterbacks.
Wachovia became Wells Fargo.
The Bobcats became the Hornets (again).
The landscape of uptown has changed, with numerous new buildings, restaurants, and a professional baseball stadium
I have worked with 10 pastors (Bill Wood, Katie Crowe, Jim Miller, Wes Barry, Kirk Hall, Roland Perdue, Pen Peery, Chuck Williamson, Erika Funk and Katelyn Cooke).
Almost the entire staff has turned over, with the exception of William Andrews, Willie Atkins, Donna Dendy, and Milton Kidd, all of whom have served this church far longer than I have.
My title has changed. Twice.
I have participated in eight congregational retreats, ten PW retreats, one handbell tour (to Scotland), one mission trip (to Haiti) and one youth ski trip.
I have officiated 27 weddings, 71 baptisms, and 97 funerals, and preached 86 sermons.
Three of the most significant experiences of my life have happened—my marriage to Bill, the birth of our daughter, Caroline, and my mother’s illness and death.
What I have also realized in reflecting upon this time is that, while much has changed, much has also remained the same. This church is as committed to being for Christ in the heart of Charlotte as it was ten years ago. The care, compassion and commitment to the gospel that drew me to this place are as vital and central to your mission as they ever have been. This remains a community grounded in faith, full of love, and committed to service, and it remains my privilege to be in ministry with you all.
Over the course of ten years, I have gotten to know you as individuals, families and a community. I have shared in your joys, grieved your losses, and journeyed with you through ordinary time. I have seen you at your best, and at times I’ve seen you at your worst. And you’ve seen the same of me. I have made mistakes and I’ve learned many things about myself, about ministry, and about this extraordinary community. You have taught me more than I can ever express about love and faith, grief and loss, perseverance and forgiveness.
It is one of the richest gifts of my life to navigate the joys and challenges of these years with you all, and I can honestly say that I am stronger and better for the time I have shared with you. Through the highs and the lows of these past ten years, I have grown and developed a great deal as a person and as a pastor, and I have been challenged in ways I never could have imagined. Whether you’ve been here for all of it or some of it, you are a part of this community, a part of the history of this church, and a part of my life, and I am so grateful to be in this with you.
As someone who loves words, and for whom words are an integral part of my daily work, I struggle in this moment to find any words that feel adequate to express my gratitude to you for being the church you are in this place and at this time. Please know that I love you all and am deeply grateful for the countless ways you have modeled faith and servanthood to me. It is a joy to be on this journey with you, and I look forward to whatever is to come.