I have written in this space before about my great friend Kathleen Sihlanick - a lady who broke the glass ceiling before anyone realized it was there.
Today I feel I need to honor another person who has had tremendous impact on my life - my Pastor, Rick Ecklund. It is with a heavy heart, because he is moving to another church very soon. The blessing and curse of being a United Methodist - where pastors are sent, not hired. I read a very amusing book recently called "The Search Committee" about a team of Presbyterians searching for their new preacher. Although I could certainly relate to the personalities of the characters (ALL churches are full of characters), this idea of a search committee is foreign. In the United Methodist denomination the conference bishop, his/her cabinet (yes, we have had a woman bishop in the Virginia UMC Conference!) and the district superintendent make the decision of who goes where.
|Bishop Cho, District Superintendent|
Larry Davies and Pastor Rick.
Every minister that I have been blessed with has brought different gifts to the church. Some are incredible speakers, sermons challenging and inspiring the members each week. Some are great theologians, Bible scholars, educators - those have encouraged increasing knowledge of the Bible and church history. Still others bring organization skills or pastoral care or an emphasis on spiritual gifts. Sometimes it is just new blood that a congregation needs to reignite their ministry.
Though I am used to this process - this particular change (after eight years!) is going to be harder than ever. Mostly because Pastor Rick has been the first to encourage me to explore ministry from the pulpit. He and his wife Pastor Liz Ecklund (also a United Methodist minister) have challenged me to look at the possibility of ordained ministry. I am not sure what direction I will go with that calling - I am still trying to discern what path God wants me to follow. But when I mentioned it as something that had been marinating in my mind - Rick was on my side. He did not sugarcoat the challenges that a pastor faces, but he reminded me that if God wants me on that path, I can rely on him to be with me through it all.
|Rick popping Jiffy Pop for a movie|
night at the church. Note, he is popping
|A new stole to remember Centenary by...|
Make no mistake, he is grounded in the core beliefs of Christianity. He believes that God sent his only son into the world - not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He just respects that not everyone agrees on some of the details - and that shouldn't stop us from doing what we are supposed to do. Be the light. Love one another. Stop judging...that isn't our job.
Rick is a great minister - I love to hear his sermons (he preaches from the common lectionary - so I can study the scriptures ahead of time! Then I can compare my "take" on the scripture with his.), he is wonderfully caring (I can always count on him for a listening ear), he tries hard to connect our congregation with the mission and ministry of the district, conference and United Methodists around the world. I will miss his leadership. I will miss his guidance. I will miss his friendship. I'll even miss his dry Yankee sense of humor.
I'm ready to embrace the transition. I look forward to what new gifts and talents Rev. Doug Gunsalus will bring. He must be good - his last church kept him for 13 years! And I wish Pastor Rick the best as he settles into a new appointment at Main Street UMC in Bedford. Maybe he won't be universally loved there either, but I am willing to bet that it will be the vast majority that come to love and respect him...just like me.