A Letter from Pastor Lourey on leaving PUMC
10 minute video:
“Family in Christ,
This is my last Sunday with you. I wish you grace and peace from God who is the head of this family, in the name of Jesus our servant leader, and the Holy Spirit who we call our friend. Grace and peace.
I thank God every day for this ministry with you. You’ve taught me how to be a Pastor. I remember meeting you. I came to know you as a warm and hopeful congregation, emerging from a stressful chapter. You were dreaming of children in the pews, of new people in leadership roles, of sermons that would connect you to the scriptures, worship that would inspire. You dreamed of this even as you were reeling from conflict, burning out as volunteers, and worried about finances and the future. I was coming out of a year of wondering if I would ever be able to preach of serve the way I was called to when I enrolled in seminary. I have come to realize how bound this ministry is to everything I do.
Amid all these hopes and fears God revealed your zeal, your sincerity, your humor, and inspired me to believe in your vitality.
On my first Sunday with you I preached about grace. I talked about the biblical witness of grace as its own kind of crisis, a surprising interruption, and sudden certainty of God’s love for and belief in you, that changes the way you perceive everything and everyone you thought you knew. I said to you then, there is an element to grace of coming before, like an ecosystem to fit into rather than a relationship we cultivate. It’s cosmic, in that everything in the universe is affected by it, but it’s also very personal. Jesus came not as an event for one time or as a symbol of God’s love for a chosen people, but as a witness to the truth that the design for everything, the plan for everything, is grace.
Even as this has not been the only, the noisiest, or the largest church in the town of Peterborough, people have been guided here to fall in love with God again. People without a community, hungry for kindness and sharing have dared to walk in the doors on a Sunday morning, not knowing what they’ll find. Some of you who have been here for years walk in not knowing what you’ll find.
They have met a welcoming congregation, working enthusiastically to respond to God’s grace, to grow in understanding of God and missional service. Every year that I have been appointed here I have served a transformed congregation. Every year a different congregation.
I remember sad Sundays where we performed farewell rites for members and friends moving away. I remember wondering how church life would change without these people in our community. I remember leadership meetings where it looked like the same handful of people could be rotating on and off committees forever.
At the same time, our dreams were becoming reality, as we served as a supportive presence for grieving people without church homes. We built missions and prayer shawl ministries with people beyond our group. We delivered holiday encouragement to struggling families. We showered love on a boy orphaned by AIDS on the other side of the world. We supported audacious service. We surprised social advocates by welcoming them into our worship hour. We paid our mission shares. We built up our Sunday School. We pioneered new adult classes. We connected with our ecumenical neighbors. We sought out way to help combat housing insecurity and domestic violence. We asked God to help us dare. To calm our anxiety. And to make worship out of what was left of us by the end of the week.
God has been faithful. Week by week we have lived out God’s love and challenged ourselves. And God continually renews our vitality. At the end of each week God has accepted what was left of us, and made worship that inspired people to say, you know I always feel better when I come to church.
It is harder to remember when each incoming member joined the church because we have transformed with each new contribution. I have accepted God’s call to another congregation knowing that I will miss seeing the transformations to come. And Pastor Lena has accepted God’s call to come here because God will use her to help those transformations along. Your hopes and fears have changed. I am confident that Pastor Lena’s gifts will lead you to places I could not go. And that this is all part of a grace-filled design that God has for each of your lives.
Some things have become easier. Some things have become much harder. Frankly, if you keep your hearts open to God’s kind of love, you will always have to face grief over the losses time imposes. You will battle with cycles of energy and depression that make you feel inadequate. Voices from the world will get in your head and provoke feelings of contempt, shame and fear. Memories will fail and be rewritten.
And in the midst of this, God is always going to be whispering, what are you doing with the time you have?
How did you make me known today?
Have you cherished the good that has come your way?
Are you making room for what’s next?
Most important, in your times of greatest distress and risk, God will be urging you to ask for even greater trust. That you are needed for your gifts and your witness. That God is at work in you. And that you are bearers of love abundant, unconditional and eternal. I urge you to remember in all you take on, to love God and to love each other actively. By encouraging one another. Presume that others do what they do out of love. When you are hurt by another, believe that it is an accident. Forgive. Speak in ways that build each other up. Act with compassion when you see a good intention going wrong. Don’t sit back while another person stumbles.
Dare your heart to grow. To include new people, your new Pastor, the lonely and the outcast. Pray for each other, and those you’ve not yet met. Accept kindness in its many forms. Set your goal as wholeness and justice for every single human being through God’s grace and measure only against this goal. Do not let uncertainty defeat you. Don’t settle or go numb. And practice vulnerability by trusting and hoping in each other.
You have challenged me to seek the truth in love plainly and courageously. Always, whenever I had an option of saying something in a polite way or in a more daring way, you always asked for the more daring way. You have dared me to be accountable to the teachings we share. And to follow thought with action. At times I wanted to offer healing where I could not heal. And to understand more fully. To take away suffering that could not be lifted. You have taught me to be more patient. To abide with grief. And to trust in God’s ability to restore joy.
On so many Sunday mornings I have stood in this spot and asked God to help me do something worth doing with you. In response God has revealed how our ministry has made a difference in ways we could not anticipate or control. I have been so privileged to serve with you. And I will miss you.
And I trust that God has put our time together to excellent use.
So as we say goodbye I want you to know that I will miss your kindness. I cannot respond proportionately to all you have given me. Thank you. You have changed me with your love. Continue to practice such love and it will perfect the world.
Grace be with you.”
– Pastor Lourey Savick
This letter was shared in Pastor Lourey’s final service at PUMC on June 12, 2016.