My former church found itself a new pastor. Last Sunday was her First. There will never be another First Sunday. I sent her my good wishes the day before.
We haven’t met. I hope we will someday. I just wanted you to know that I’ve heard enough about you to be very pleased (and relieved) that you are SPC’s next minister, joining a succession stretching back to 1743. I felt lucky and blessed to be part of such a company, serving an extraordinary community of saints and sinners. May your First Sunday be full of grace and delight. Knock ’em dead.
I am glad. Truly. But, I must confess, I’m a little sad, too. She gets to stand, kneel, and sit where I once stood, knelt, and sat. She gets to get a kick out of a congregation that once filled my soul with joy.
Funny how you think you’re over something—the death of friend, a broken romance, a career—and then out of the blue you find an old letter, hear a certain song, or glimpse a bit of news, and just like that grief returns.
I had good reasons to retire, to leave that work and that household of faith. But reason has its limits. Just when you’re moving briskly ahead, you get blindsided.
The happy news last week took me back to another time, back to my First Sunday—July 4, 1976. A church mostly empty every previous Sunday was nearly full that day. Let’s go check out that long-haired, bearded dude from California and see what he’s got.
I didn’t think my “First Sermon” from that historic pulpit was anything special. But that night all around Shepherdstown and all across America fireworks exploded. What a start, I thought.
The following Sunday the church was mostly empty. Never again would my sermons set off fireworks. (Although there were plenty of bombs.) The congregation was small but spunky. We walked together, fell in love, and plugged along through good times and hard times.
That was then. This is now.
I read the new pastor’s “First Sermon” online. It was brilliant. She knocked ’em dead for sure. I heard fireworks that night. I hope she did, too.
May grace abound for the Reverend Gusti Linnea Newquist and her beloved flock. May their life together be invigorating, bodacious, long lasting, and peppered with great laughter.