Transitions


This will appear in the July newsletter for Fishkill UMC

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During my first summer at Truman State University in 1966, I received a letter from my mother which said that the family had moved, and I should not plan on coming home.  So, for a couple of months, I had no idea where my home was.

I was able to go to my grandmother’s home in St. Louis during the brief 4th of July break that summer.  Her home would serve as a second home many times over the next few years while I was in school and at the beginning of my professional career.

The move from Missouri to Tennessee was, for my siblings and I, nothing unusual.  As the son of an Air Force officer, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I lived in two different states and the Philippines before beginning school.  I lived in six states and attended five elementary schools, two junior high schools, and two other high schools before graduating from Bartlett High School, my 3rd high school, in 1968.  And many of those early moves occurred during the school year.

Each of these moves was a transition in my life.  While there were some drawbacks to moving so many times, I saw more of the country than many of my non-military classmates and it was very much a part of growing up. 

Also, I was either lucky or very fortunate.  I was still able to continue my academic progress.  But, for as much as the transitions that I made were positive, I am sure that they were not as positive for many others.

In all these moves, there was one constant, my mother’s desire that my siblings and I attend Sunday school and church every week.  This would establish a practice that I have tried to maintain to this day.  In the beginning, this was perhaps more of a Sunday ritual but over time, the church became a place of renewal and my spiritual home.

In 1966, I only had the beginnings of an idea what I would do professionally, and I certainly had no idea that I would become a lay speaker/minister.  I was certain that Truman State would be my academic home for the next few years, and I wanted to make sure I had a spiritual home as well.

Now this was before the merger of the EUB and Methodist denominations to form the United Methodist Church and I would have preferred attending Faith EUB.  But it was a couple of miles out of town and since I was going to be walking to church, I opted to attend 1st Methodist, which was only about seven blocks from the campus.  So, I transferred my membership from the Wright City (MO) Methodist Church to the 1st Methodist Church of Kirksville, MO (see note at the end of the paper).

When I first came up here in 1999 to meet Ann, I asked that we attend church on Sunday before I flew back to Kentucky.  And so, we came to Fishkill UMC.

For some, Fishkill UMC has been their only spiritual home; for others, it has been one of several.  But no matter how long they have been a member, it has been a place of renewal and to refresh the spirit.

And now it is July and a time of transition for many United Methodist Churches.  But it is not we who are moving but Pastor Micah and other pastors.  In a span of seven days, Pastor Micah and Kiren, along with other pastors and their families will have gathered up their belongings and memories and moved to their new charge.

The transition of church leadership is very much a part of our faith tradition.  Joshua took over the leadership of the Israelites from Moses; David became the heir apparent to Saul; Elisha took over for Elijah, and Paul always seemed to focus on the transition of leadership at the churches that he founded.

For some, Pastor Micah is the only pastor they have known and this change, this transition, can be very hard.  Even for those for whom the change of pastors is part of being a United Methodist, it is still not an easy time.  We have become used to a style, an approach, and all that is about to change.

But even in change, there is still constancy.  Our new pastor, Dan Levine, is versed in the ways of Methodism and that means that the essence of the message will still be the same, no matter how it is spoken or presented.

Each transition, be it a change of place or a change of people, gives us the opportunity to see the world in a new light. 

We must understand that though we may speak of our church home, it is first and foremost God’s home, and we are but His tenants.  If we see this as our possession, then we have evicted God and made it impossible for change to occur.

I know of situations where members of a church viewed the church as “their” church and those who come, laity and clergy alike, must adhere to already written and unwritten practices and protocols.

A transition is not a one-way process.  It is more than saying good-bye to one pastor and hello to another.  If we are to continue our own spiritual journey, and perhaps more importantly, help others begin or continue their spiritual journey, we must be a part of the transition as well.

We have said our goodbyes to Pastor Micah and Kiren.  As we now greet Pastor Dan, we understand that this transition is part of our spiritual journey as well.

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EUB stands for Evangelical United Brethren and was the denomination in which I began my walk with Christ.

In 1994, at the beginning of my lay speaking career, I would preach at Faith UMC.  In my message, I mentioned why I had chosen 1st over Faith.  After the service, a member of the congregation came up to me and said, “You could have called; we would have come and picked you up.”  (A Matter of Faith | Thoughts From The Heart On The Left (wordpress.com) -https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/a-matter-of-faith/)

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