During worship today our SPRC chair shared news that I will be appointed as the Pastor of Belmont United Methodist in Nashville beginning in July. Through a few tears I tried to make the following points.
Foremost, I am deeply grateful for the privilege of pastoring Tullahoma FUMC for the past six years. The way you graciously welcomed Connie, my boys, and my mother will always encourage me as a pastor. Your compassionate caring for mother allowed us to fully embrace church life, you have helped “proclaim the Good News… (and) surrounded my family with a community of love and forgiveness.” (UMH Baptismal Vows). We give thanks to God for you.
As a Methodist clergy person, I belong to a religious order abiding in a covenant relationship with our 500 middle Tennessee churches. Twenty years ago, as a bit of a rascal I believed I could serve Christ better under the religious accountability and guidance of spiritual leaders. In our consumer culture, it is hard to look beyond our own self-Interests. I am deeply grateful for the United Methodist Church, for in her arms God has nurtured within me a better understanding of grace, goodness, forgiveness, and community.
I would count it a great gift to continue serving here through Caleb’s senior year. It fills us with some sadness, even as we know God is at work. Connie and Caleb will stay in our Tullahoma home during his senior year. I know our bishop and cabinet prayerfully consider how to send clergy. I deeply believe that God is calling me to my next field of service at Belmont UMC. I am excited to know that Rev. Ricky Wade will come to shepherd of our wonderful church, becoming our seventy third pastor! Tullahoma is blessed with great lay people and a loving Christ-like staff.
Please know that our church, our community, and our world desperately need each of you to step up and lead. As Christians, we lead by serving. Lead by embracing Pastor Ricky. Forgive his shortcomings as you generously forgave my failings. Celebrate his gifts! Welcome his wife Becky, their four grown children and especially their daughter who will be a freshman at Tullahoma High next fall. “Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3) Serve Christ by upholding our church with your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. And above everything else love God, love each other love and our neighbors.
Grace and Love
Paul, I am so pleased about your appointment to Belmont, which is a sister church to Edgehill UMC where I served. It would have been fun to do this together! I can think of no one better for Belmont than you, and I rejoice for Tullahoma UMC to have the wonderful Rickey Wade coming to serve with them. Congratulations to all! And prayers and best wishes!