As for me, I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. — 2 Timothy 4:6-8
It is hard for me to believe that the time has almost come for me to say “good-bye.” In these seven years of ministry, you have taught me much about what it means to be a pastor, a preacher, and a friend. I still remember well my nervous first hospital visits: two of the three people were terminal and passed away within days. (The third had knee-replacement surgery and survived my visit!) I now know the honor of praying with a family as a man takes his last breath. On my first day at Sea Island, a Wednesday, Steve announced at Kirk Night that I would be preaching on Sunday; it was the first I had heard of it, and I panicked! I have come to love listening for God’s word to Sea Island and sharing it with you as thoughtfully as I am able. I came to Beaufort wondering if I could be real friends with members of the congregation without having to hide my faults, weakness, and vices. I have discovered that a good pastor is one who can be her authentic self in the office, at home, and on the town. For both Eric and I, counting church members among our friends has been one of the richest blessings of ministry. I am grateful to have learned these lessons among such a gracious and loving congregation. Saying good-bye is difficult.
In these seven years of ministry, we have accomplished much together for the sake of Jesus Christ and in the name of gospel. I am uncomfortable with the language of “success” when it comes to ministry because often our call is not be successful but faithful. When we follow Jesus, faithfulness may look more like sacrifice than anything the world counts as success. If we measure success at all, it is by the depth of our love for God and for neighbor. Together you have shown genuine love and welcome to people who do not fit the description of a “typical” member of Sea Island Presbyterian. You have mentored more than 60 youth as they confirmed their faith in Jesus Christ. You have provided hundreds of meals and thousands of hours of time to care for homeless families visit each quarter with Family Promise. We have opened our doors to the community with fair-trade Christmas shopping and a cold-weather emergency shelter for the homeless. By every measure, you have loved well.
When Paul wrote his second letter to his friend and protégé, Timothy, the great apostle was nearing the end of his life and saying his last goodbye. He likely wrote from a prison cell, fully aware that he would soon sacrifice his life for the sake of the gospel that he preached. I am no Paul, and my sacrifice is not nearly as great. Still, as I answer God’s call to serve among the urban poor, I pray that I, too, may give my whole life as an offering to God. Indeed, I hope I have done so already. While I have not reached the finish line of my race, I know that my leg of this relay is ended; I hand off the baton to you, the members and friends of Sea Island Presbyterian, who will run the next leg well. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Keep the faith. As I pick up the baton from another congregation, I will run that race better for having run first with you. Thank you.
With abiding love,