If the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t bring enough change into our lives, the month of June for Marvin Church will bring a little more. At the request of the Bishop and Texas Annual Conference Cabinet, Rev. David Dorn has reported early for his new appointment as senior pastor at Faith UMC in Richmond. We said goodbye to his family with a drive-by farewell celebration May 24, and this month we will be doing the same for Pastor Melanie. Her last Sunday will be June 21. I am excited for both, as new opportunities and responsibilities await them. Pastor Melanie will serve as the preaching associate at FUMC Athens.
Change is all around us. As we reopen the church for worship and go through this transition in our pastoral team, there are a few things of which I would like to remind the congregation, things that have helped me during life transitions.
The first thing to remember is that every transition or change begins with an ending. We have to say goodbye to our dear friends in ministry and release them for the new appointments that they have received. With change comes a loss. If you were especially close to either pastor, you might currently be experiencing some grief. Though David and Melanie will no longer serve as your pastors, they will still be your friends.
If you think about it, the changes we are currently embracing with the worship re-start have already revealed that worship is not like it used to be for us: seating in our worship spaces is different; we can’t greet each other in the manner we are accustomed; some are even needing to change service times due to health precautions. As we enter a very different experience on campus, we must grieve that, for now, we cannot worship as we have in the past. We must embrace our new reality, and it begins with letting go and acknowledging a little grief. Letting go of the past helps us embrace the present blessings.
Secondly, we must remember that transitions are best handled when we go through them with others. I believe it was very intentional that Jesus said to his disciples after giving them the Great Commission, “I am with you always.” During this time of transition for our church, we must remember that Jesus is with us and that He “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Marvin has gone through many transitions in leadership through the years, and I recall that in 2007 when I joined the Marvin staff, three new associates came that summer. Our new associate pastors, John Wayne McMann and Marc Donaldson, will bring their own personalities and spiritual gifts for service, and they will be greeted warmly by the Marvin family. Marvin has tremendous laity. We are rich in “social capital” and spiritual giftedness. Our supportive relationships—the people in our Sunday School classes, small groups and ministry and service teams—will be going through this transition with us and will be encouraging us along the way.
Lastly, I have found that during transitions it is good to embrace as many familiar things as possible. I think it was important during Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances for Him to meet the disciples in familiar places. He met them several times in the Upper Room and around the Sea of Galilee. For this reason, I have appreciated the fact that we are able to begin having some of our worship experiences on campus. Allowing people to be back on campus, even if in a limited way, has brought some comfort during this transitional time. I encourage you to also be faithful to your devotional practices and other familiar routines during this “in-between” time. It will “ground” you spiritually and emotionally.
The future of Marvin church is bright. As one of my dear friends told me recently, “God’s got this!”