Message from the Pastor

Saying Goodbye

 It was spring, 1989. Having served three years as the Associate at Memorial United Methodist in White Plains, New York, the bishop appointed me to serve as the Senior Pastor at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Valley Stream, New York.

While this was a good career move for me, it wasn’t good for my son, Damon, then a teenager. We sat down and told him that we had some good news and bad news:  the good news is that I have a new position;  the bad news is that we will be moving to Long Island. Damon did not appreciate the bad news. In fact, he became very upset, stormed out of the house and slammed the door.

I knew then that as a United Methodist itinerant preacher, big transitions would be in store for my family and me.  Damon’s friendships were tight and significant. He had planned to attend and graduate from high school with his friends and perhaps attend college with some of them. All that evaporated when we moved to Long Island. I cried for him. It was painful. This story in my life comes to mind as I have been thinking about how I will need to say goodbye to all of you. At the recent transitioning meeting with the new Senior Pastor, Rev. Robert Hewitt,  and his family, we had the opportunity to begin to mark and honor our transition. So, twenty-one days from now, June 24, we will have to say goodbye to an era in our lives as Pastor and congregation. Some of you I have known for twenty-one years, some of you much less, but by no means less meaningfully.

I have been blessed and indeed, grateful for the relationships I have developed with you and for our shared ministry–more grateful than you will ever know. After we share together our final worship service on June 24, our relationships will be different in significant ways for good reasons. In a spirit of graciousness, Rev. Hewitt offered to assign me the title of Pastor Emeritus. I kindly declined. I need to get out of the way in order for Rev. Hewitt to be your pastor. I truly must step away. Back in July 1997, when I arrived as your new senior pastor, I appreciated Rev. Dennis Winkleblack’s professionalism and the importance of keeping professional boundaries. It enabled us to begin our journey together without interference.

Rev. Eric Fjeldal, the facilitator of the transition meeting, distributed a pamphlet called Protocols: Relating to Transitions in Clergy Leadership. It states:

 “First and foremost, a clear understanding of protocol is vital for serving the needs of the congregation. The people of any congregation need to be clear about who their pastor is, and the new pastor needs to be able to build the pastoral relationship with his/her congregants.  The needs of the people require clear understanding and boundaries between the present and former pastor.”

One of the blessings of having served for twenty-one years with you at First is that we have been witnesses to many final goodbyes. Many of them have been grace filled and inspiring. Thankfully, we still have time to say goodbye. My family and I have truly enjoyed our ministry with you. We have grown. We have learned. We will never forget you because we will carry you in the stories we created together with the help of God. These stories reflect the outpouring of our love of God, our love of the gospel of Jesus Christ, our love for each other, and for all God’s children.

With love,

Pastor Doug