June 2011 marks the 10 year anniversary of my ministry at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Edwardsville, Illinois. I know this because my son was born three days after my first sermon. He turns 10 on Monday.
It has been a joy that I am able to raise my son in the same church such a length of time. It is not as common as many would hope for the children of ministers. I can see the benefits as tonight he and I walked on the newly paved church parking lot, paid for in part with money that my son is donating to the capital campaign. His pledge was not the largest received by the church. However his fulfillment of that pledge is shaping his life.
Since entering ministry, I have wanted to serve in a long-term situation of service. It has been a belief of mine that long-term ministry is most healthy for congregations and ministers. My experience with the wonderful people who participate with our congregation has confirmed my wish and hope.
We have accomplished amazing things with the help of God. Some achievements were goals we explicitly worked toward. Others were serendipitous experiences of God’s grace and blessing. Many could not have been celebrated without a long term relationship of God, minister and congregation.
I might say the key to success has been the trust and confidence, knowledge and love that has been uniquely shared over 10 years. While that is in part true, there is something more. Understand that not all 120 months have been a bed of roses. Along the way the congregation and I have at times leaned more heavily upon the other or possibly disappointed the other. That is the reality of human relationships. Sometimes we simply enjoyed seasons of rest. Even God has taken a turn or two at stirring us from the compliancy of familiarity. The “more than” which I will and do forever cherish is that our relationship has continued to grow, continued to remain in dialogue, continued to share ministry. We continually find moments of celebration that God has blessed us with vibrant ministry and vital relationships of faith.
I know of congregations and clergy who do not enjoy this quality or quantity of relationship. The negative impact upon ministry is disheartening. I wish for them what I enjoy here, a context of ministry that continues to provide challenges and room for growth - for myself and all who participate in our community of faith. The results are a deepening love for God, neighbor and self.
I thought I would celebrate this anniversary with a listing of accomplishments but that seems rather prideful or at least out of place. I wondered about listing the folks who have meant so much along the journey such as members and participants, student ministers and colleagues, mentors and my family. Alas I fear I would forget a name and they all deserve my gratitude and love.
I prefer to look ahead. To a future of continuing to be unsatisfied with our service to God’s people, to a tomorrow of continuing relationships of share ministry, and to an openness to the movement of God’s Spirit and to those we have yet to share ministry.