Dear Christian friends of Woodville UMC,
This will be my last column written as your pastor. This week, I am attending the annual meeting of Texas Conference Methodists in Houston. During this conference, as happens every year, our Bishop will formally make the appointments that have already been announced in the churches. For several years running, I have been reappointed to Woodville but now after 5 years as pastor of Woodville UMC, the Lord is sending me to a new place for ministry. This Sunday, June 6th, will be our last Sunday in worship with you as your pastoral family. The very next Sunday, I'll be preaching at Westbury UMC in Houston. We go with joy, anticipation and obedience to God's call but with a deep love and gratitude in our hearts for you.
The apostle Paul did this several times in his ministry. Although not who we would call a local church pastor, he did begin, shepherd, and mentor many churches and did itinerate and move around like we Methodist preachers. He was clear as Methodists are today that the church is the people, you, who live, work and serve in your community. We pastors are pilgrims passing through. While feeling every bit a part of this community and fully engaged here, we are much like the Levite priests of the Old Testament who do not take up residence on particular plots, so to speak, but serve the people and rely on your generosity. You have been exceedingly generous with us!
What has meant as much to me as anything else has been your generosity with my family. Bethany, Addie and Samuel have had beginnings here in their lives and their ministry with me. Addie and Samuel were baptized here. Woodville UMC and Tyler County will hold a special place in our hearts because of these beginnings and the way you welcomed and included us with such grace.
Bryan, Carol, Rachel and Brayton Harkness will of course be saying goodbye to Klein UMC on the 6th and hello to you on the 13th as well. One of the unique things about the Methodist way is the continuity of pastoral leadership that it provides. Most all the time, churches do not go without a pastor. Even as difficult as it can be emotionally to say goodbye and hello so quickly between pastors, there is also such a great continuity of leadership and care that provides stability and confidence for the church. I'm grateful for that.
Grateful is what I feel most of all. I share with the apostle Paul his words to the church at Philippi. "I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the Gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ."
To the past and present staff and lay leadership of Woodville UMC, I am thankful for the ministry we have shared together and for our friendships. To all the people of the church, I thank you for sharing your life and faith with me, for the privileged moments we have shared, for the way you have sharpened my own faith and grown me as a pastor. You have been patient, kind, gracious, affirming and bold. I have already spent much time in prayer over each of you by name and your families and will continue to hold you close in love.
Bryan and Carol are very excited to be coming to Woodville and I know you will welcome them in the same fine way you welcomed us. Your attentiveness to the Lord's work through him will be so vital to your continued growth as God's people in Tyler County.Bethany, Addie, Samuel and I love you and always will. Hold us in your prayers when you think of us and do the same for your new pastor and his family. They are coming to a great church. Continue to Embrace your Heritage, continue to Build your Future, with God's leading. May God bless you and keep you Woodville United Methodist Church from this day onward and forevermore.