On January 17, 1981 I invited Jesus Christ to come into my life to lead it with love and grace. With me were five schoolmates who shared the story of Jesus with me for the first time. All of us were 13 years old. The first “adult” I met in the church was the pastor (Larry Jacobson) of the local United Methodist Church in Prague, Oklahoma. (The church is pictured here.) Why the United Methodist Church? That is where my all friends attended. I have been actively part of a United Methodist Church ever since. Yes, that is 41 years and running.
On April 30, 2022 I will officially retire from full-time ministry in the United Methodist Church. I do so with mixed feelings. The most evident of these feelings is gratitude. I am thankful for the ways in which, during my early years in faith, the UMC became a community to me. Both laypersons and pastors afforded me the privilege of serving the church in so many ways. The Holy Spirit was at work in all and through all to nurture something deep within me. While I am retiring from ministry in the UMC, that work of the Spirit is far from complete. God’s sanctifying grace is preparing me for the next season of ministry.
I vividly remember a conversation with my dear friend and mentor, Rev. Bruce Warner shortly after his retirement in 1999. Bruce told me that the call to ministry does not end in retirement, but we are saddled with an organizational church that is not sure what to do with retired pastors. God is certainly not done with any of them – or shall I say us? Bruce is just one example of what fills my heart with gratitude to the Lord.
What am I to say in thanksgiving for laity and pastors who have encouraged, rebuked, inspired, and taught me over these years in the UMC? My response can be nothing other than, “Thanks be to God!” 13-year-old lay persons led me to faith in Jesus. Brother Larry baptized me. David Walker opened a call to ministry to me. Robert Ferguson gave me my first job working in a church. Lay persons like Carol Hough, Steve and Maggie Carey, Linda Jones, and so many others shaped my early days in ministry. I became the husband of Bettina through the UMC. Both of my children were baptized in the UMC. There are so many points of thanks and gratitude, I cannot count them all.
The ministry God is doing in me and through me are by no means done. Bruce’s words ring entirely true now more than ever. I am going to continue in full-time ministry for the Lord. This is true for all of us. Are we not always available to God’s Holy Spirit? My next ministry will simply no longer be under appointment in the United Methodist Church. In the coming days, I will be able to share more clearly about is lies ahead for me. God has called me to turn a page.
Here are the mixed feelings. I enter this retirement knowing that I, along with all of us, are never retired. We simply change the shape and place of ministry to fulfill God’s call. For now, my heart is filled with gratitude for how God has worked over the 54 years of my life. I know that great moments of gratitude await. God’s grace is always moving. Always present. Always seeking the way of love.
Grace to you all!