June 12, 2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
We’ve spent the past year reading the Gospel of Luke together, and I’m struck by the ending. Jesus ascends into heaven. But then, as Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles, he tells the same story—the Ascension. Why does he repeat the story? I don’t know. Maybe Luke knows it’s hard to say goodbye to people you love; it takes a couple of tries to get it right.
This is a hard letter to write because it is the beginning of a goodbye. I am writing to let you know that I have accepted a call to become Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. My last Sunday in the pulpit here in Dalton will be July 24.
Let me first say that it has been a joy and a privilege to be your pastor these past eight years. When I showed up for work in July of 2014, I walked into a completely renovated Martin House that was next door to a cement foundation and some steel beams. Since that time we finished a building; but, more important than that, we have grown as a church. We have welcomed new faces and said goodbye to beloved ones. We have studied together, served together, and worshipped together, testifying that God is at work in this place and in each one of your lives.
While our family is excited about our next chapter, we are saddened to leave a place that has meant so much to us. You welcomed Katie and me with a baby in tow, and have made this community our home with so much love and support. You brought us food and help and prayers as we welcomed two new babies and have helped nurture them in their baptisms. You were always eager to share kind words, patient in teaching a young pastor, open and encouraging, and always forgiving.
I have already shared my intention to leave with the session and the Presbytery. Consequently both groups will be at work soon to facilitate a transition—locating an interim pastor, reflecting on congregational identity during a transitional period, and ultimately calling a new pastor. There is already someone out there who God is calling to be with you in this special place.
If you have any questions or concerns about what this process looks like, you are welcome to talk to me or a member of session. Know, too, that representatives from Cherokee Presbytery will be present throughout this transitional period. The Rev. Wilson Kennedy, General Presbyter for Cherokee Presbytery will be preaching in Dalton on July 17, and will be happy to speak with any of you about the transitional process. And while I will be unable to care for you as your pastor beyond July, I look forward to being with you in ministry in the coming weeks and celebrating how far we have come together—and celebrating what’s next.
We’ll have a couple of tries to say goodbye. For now, let me just say how much I love you all.