My husband opened a letter in the kitchen after work this evening. And though I saw the familiar cross and flame letterhead – the same letterhead that came atop the announcements that Pastor Olive was leaving, that Pastor Duke is leaving, and though I heard my husband’s astonished exclamation, I did not expect the news he shared with me: Pastor Jaylynn is leaving, too. I felt totally deflated. How was it possible that we were only finding out now that our associate was going to be leaving in less than a month?
We moved into the living room, and as my husband and I began discussing the news, my daughter interrupted to ask me to tell her a Bible story.
“In a minute, sweetie – Daddy and I are sad.”
“Well, we were sad when we learned that Pastor Duke was leaving, but then we thought, at least Pastor Jaylynn would still be with us. But tonight we learned that Pastor Jaylynn is going to be going to another church, too. Pastor Duke is going to another church, and Pastor Jaylynn is leaving, too.”
She thought about that for a little while, and then said matter of factly, “We will be getting a new teacher.”
I just about leapt across the room to hug her! Of course we were getting a new teacher. “Yes,” my husband said, “His name is Pastor Taylor, and he is going to be our new Pastor. He has a little girl just your age.”
“I didn’t know that!” Hannah said excitedly.
And I told her the story of Daniel praying, and we lifted our arms up and said thank you to God, too – thank you for the many wonderful pastors we have known, and for our church, and for the pastor who is coming to us. And thank you that, as United Methodists, we know that we will always “be getting a new teacher.”
I served in a small town, just down the street from a Baptist church. When their pastor moved on to another church, they were left without a pastor for longer than a year. While itinerancy can present problems for pastors, tonight I am celebrating that my daughter can continue to be assured that we will be getting a new teacher. Amidst the sadness and confusion that accompanies this announcement, and with the full knowledge that every pastor is irreplaceable, I am nonetheless celebrating, because I am a United Methodist, and the loss of my current pastors does not mean that I have to wonder whether I will have a pastor when they leave.