Dates are important and scary. My last day as Pastor of Mountville Presbyterian Church will be May 31st. I will be retiring. This Pentecost will begin my 15th year as your pastor. That is a wonderfully long time. It says a lot about your walk with the Lord. It will be bittersweet for me to leave and maybe for you as well. What is most important is the glory of God and the welfare of Mountville church. This should always be kept in mind. I am satisfied because of the excellent choice Mountville made a few years ago to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Because of this you should know that it will not be as difficult to find a good pastor as it was in the PCUSA. There are many excellent candidates to choose from in our own very area and they have all been thoroughly examined to make sure they are evangelical, Presbyterian and orthodox in their faith and knowledge. If you have been to Presbytery meetings you know the caliber of EPC pastors – it is delightfully good. So I don’t have to worry about you there. Also with so many young children in our church there are plenty of young pastor candidates available who can keep up with them and so identify with them that they will be excited about belonging to Christ’s Church. So I don’t have to worry about that either. When I first arrived here I heard that our church was living from hand to mouth financially. We never had a financial need that I know of while here that wasn’t met. I hear that expenses have overtaken income now but I feel confident that what God has done while I am here will continue on after I am gone. God will meet our needs.
I received my call to ministry in 1977 and all through my ministry it was God’s hand that called and kept me as a pastor. If anyone experienced God’s help and blessing it was me. It will be very strange to have our call end. For both of us we must remember the words of Jeremiah 29:11 “ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
I have never been retired before therefore I don’t know when or how to do it. My doctors were no help at all but Social Security and my pension plan were – they made me make decisions. The PCUSA and other mainline denominations tell retired pastors what they are to do. Here is what they say. ‘When a minister retires, his relationship with the congregation is altered in ways that must be respected by all persons involved”. He is no longer the pastor. It goes on to imply that “nothing appearing like ministry must take place between them for the sake of the new pastor and the new ministry.” I read a book from a PCUSA Executive that I found sad. It said basically “For the sake of the church and the new minister the leaving pastor must stay gone.”
This is especially troublesome because since childhood my father said “You are like that little Dutch boy who put his finger in the dyke.” I am always like a finger looking for a leaking dam. Can friendships end? How can I refuse to be a help in need? Yet for the sake of the church it sometimes is necessary. It is a scary time for both of us. Mountville’s ministry will change just as time has changed us. Perhaps, new faces will be needed for old jobs. New ideas will be needed for new situations. New opportunities must be explored instead of the “same-ole, same-ole”. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the hand of Christ upon us all leading us to new times and new places to go to serve Him. We are in fleshy tents that must change places along the trail until we reach that “mansion” Jesus is preparing for us.
I relish the wonderful times we have had together. I will remember the faces of those wonderful people who are now absent from the pew and present with the Lord. I relish the wonderful times of missions to strangers at our coffee stand, going to Mexico, and to Jamaica, New Orleans and everywhere we served together. I enjoyed driving our kids home from Moraine school from CEF after school club and hearing how their days went and screaming “Sit in your seat and put your seat belt on”. Most of all I enjoyed sharing Sabbath worship with you and those special services we shared. I enjoyed every precious morning I spent with the Lord in our church office preparing. Mountville has always been a very special church to the Lord and has been more beautiful, more generous, more kind that churches 100 times larger. Mountville is a wonderful family. I can well imagine your next pastor delighting you in encouraging you into a closer walk with the Lord, and using your spiritual gifts. It delights me even more that this new pastor will continue to work on what we have accomplished over these many years together.
I want to especially thank you for putting up with that illness that almost did me in. You were patient, kind and very compassionate, all signs you are following Christ. I felt guilty being sick but you helped wipe that guilt away. I am sure you wondered at times whether I would be able to finish a sermon or worship service. We got through, with God’s help.
The EPC church is not a mainline denomination with strict rules. Yet to have a successful new ministry you should keep your face forward, not backward. It is my new duty as your former pastor to stay out of your way as you discover what Christ has next for you. My new main duty is to support whoever you call as your next pastor. I have no idea what the Lord has in store for me. In 1977 I was enjoying a career with Penn State University when our pastor visited and said to me (but I heard God speaking) “God wants you to go and sign up for seminary tomorrow and if Christ gets you through the hoops you will know you are called!!” I faced a great many hoops over the years and Christ has brought me through each one. So I will be waiting for the Lord’s new marching orders either on this earth or in heaven.
From your pastor, Don
Our Communicant’s Class will join church on Pentecost, May 15th.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion will be on Pastor Hurray’s last Sunday, May 29th.
The chocolate chip cookies
An elderly man lay dying in his bed, Suddenly death's agony was pushed aside as he smelled the aroma of his favorite homemade chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs.
Gathering his remaining strength, he lifted himself up from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with intense concentration, supported himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. In labored breath, he leaned against the door frame, gazing wide-eyed into the kitchen.
There, spread out on the kitchen table were literally HUNDREDS of his favorite chocolate chip cookies!
Was it heaven? Or, was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man?
Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture, one hand on the edge of the table. The aged and withered hand quiveringly made its way to a cookie near the edge of the table. Feeling the warm soft dough actually made the pain of his bones subside for a moment. His parched lips parted; the wondrous taste of the cookie was already in his mouth; seemingly bringing him back to life.
What, then, was this sudden stinging that caused his hand to recoil?
He looked to see his wife, still holding the spatula she had just used to smack his hand.
"Stay out of those!" she said, "they're for the funeral."