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Goodbye Pastor Ann

One of my favorite moments each week is when I stand in front of the congregation at the beginning of worship, look around for new and familiar faces, and introduce myself. “If you are new, my name is Ann Lock and it’s my joy to be the pastor here.”

Introducing myself as the pastor every week started out as a professional habit meant to remind all of us of new people in our midst. Here at Shelton UMC, those words have become a spiritual practice for me. Each week, I get to the part where I say, “it’s my joy to be the pastor here” and find that yes, it is true. It has been true these six years. I thank God and I thank you for making it a joy to be your pastor.

You have been unfailingly generous with your acceptance, your trust, and your support. Your curiosity and love of learning gave me the gift of teaching, something that makes my spirit sing. You have been open and affirming of my preaching the good news of the Living Word. You have helped me grow as a leader, hold space for challenging conversations, and you inspired me with your good sense and courage.

You have moved through discomfort to open the church to more and more folks in the community and focused on making relationships. You have granted me the sacred honor of hearing your stories. It’s been a powerful gift to be at your kitchen tables and your bedsides, and to preside over weddings, baptisms, and memorial celebrations of people we’ve loved. I honor and treasure the trust you’ve given me.

Personally, these years have been big for me. You may remember that Keven and I had only been married for 3 weeks when we arrived! Shelton has been the setting of the beginning of our marriage and we will always cherish living in this beautiful place. During my father’s final illness, you held us in constant prayer and gave grace for my time away to be with him. When the pandemic hit, you showed your steadfast care for one another by prioritizing the health of our community, even though we longed to be together. You were creative with cookie drive-throughs and congregational care. You loved each other well. I believe you saved lives by your willingness to sacrifice your preferences for the safety of the most vulnerable. I’m proud of that commitment, though it meant enduring the pains of separation. When I needed to go on medical leave, you rose to the occasion with confidence, grace, and compassion. I’m humbled by the thoughtful cards full of prayers and encouragement you sent. I will be forever grateful for your support that enabled my healing, your flexibility in working with Pastor Heather, and your work of ministry in my absence.

Friends, you have shown the spiritual gifts of hospitality and welcome. You know in your bones that God’s love is for everyone, and you continue to grow more aware of how you can best  show that love. You have willingness to embrace people, and risk making room for new ideas and practices. That faith in the Holy Spirit’s mysterious ways will lead you well into the next chapter of your ministry together with Pastor Kelly!

It is not easy to say goodbye to you, beloved. Each time I’ve moved after serving a congregation, questions arise about staying in touch. We will miss each other, so it’s natural we’ll have the impulse to reach out. Yet, I ask that you hold off on electronic communication for a year. This pause in immediate communication (texts, phone calls, email, Facebook messages) will help me separate from my role as your pastor, and help you form new bonds with Pastor Kelly.

Here’s the practice I’ll be using as the Spirit walks me through this transition.

When I think of you and I want to reach out to see how you are, I will stop and pray. I will thank God for the love I get to feel in my heart, for time we got to share, and for the connection we will always have in Spirit and in the universal church of Christ. I will pray blessings to surround you, and your pastor, and this whole community. Then, I will entrust you once again to the care of Jesus and give thanks.

That being said, if you’re passing through the Twin Cities, we hope you’ll reach out so we can arrange a visit. You are in our hearts forever. As of June 26, we will be at 3423 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408.

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