Dear Members and Friends,
… if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle.
-Marilynne Robinson, “Gilead,” 21st century
We have come to the end.
Three and a half months ago, at the beginning of March, when I announced to you that it was time for Dianne and I to enter the next chapter of our lives by leaving Miami, it seemed all so sudden. Especially for you as you received that news out of the blue. June 10th seemed like it was not enough time to get everything done, and yet it also seemed far off in the future.
In the weeks and months since that announcement, again, the time has changed. There were days when June 10th seemed far off in the future and life was continuing on as always at Christ Congregational Church. Then there were days when it seemed it was approaching all too quickly and there was not enough time to transition all the duties, responsibilities, and knowledge from me, your Pastor, to your Church Leaders.
But let me tell you, all of you are in very good hands! Of course, as I will remind you on Sunday, that begins with the knowledge and faith that you are, remain, and will always be, in the hands of God! But, you also have very good human representation of God’s care and guidance, and the Spirit of God truly rests upon, the many leaders you elected this past January at the Annual Meeting of the church.
Lorrie LeGrand is an excellent President/Moderator and she is exhibiting that she has been well prepared for this role at this time in the life of Christ Congregational Church, through all of her life experience, work experience, and faith experience. She inspires me and exceeds the expectations that I had in her talents and gifts and faith. She will guide you and lead you well in the next two years.
She is backed up and supported by Daniel Best, whom we all have learned over the past three years as he served as President/Moderator, and the various other ways he has served this church, is dependable, wise, faithful, and true. He has promised Lorrie that he is ever available to assist her in her duties and he is providing untold leadership and service in support to many other church leaders and Boards and Committees.
Julio Balcells has stepped into the role of Chairperson for the Board of Trustees and Jim Ketzle has stepped into the role of Chairperson for the Board of Deacons. For both of them these are brand new roles they have never filled before in the church. (Jim of course has had a lot of experience as Treasurer, and he continues to assist Antonia, our current Treasurer and Georgina, our bookkeeper, in overseeing the financial accounting for the Church.) But Jim has never been a Deacon. He is embracing the role and providing strong leadership, as Julio is doing for the Board of Trustees. Julio is demonstrating, like Lorrie, that he is well prepared to bring good organizational skills and practical planning to help the Trustees navigate the myriad demands of caring for this property.
Graham Bryan stepped forward and provided good leadership as Vice Moderator to Chair the Interim Pastor Search Committee. Along with Cindy Ketzle, Ronnie Basora, Julio Balcells, and Margarita Morell, they have quickly and capably found a good leader to begin working with you in July that will bring stability and support to the work of all your capable leaders.
You can be encouraged that there is new and creative ministry continuing to be planned and take place in the months to come. Karen Kett and the Mission Outreach Committee will continue to offer strong guidance and challenge to you in finding ways to reach into the community and have an impact, making a difference in the lives of those whom society often forgets or pushes to the side. Joan Chandler and Wally Carlson are already planning the next book read for the Prime Time Class in the Fall and they are encouraging all of YOU to join them this summer in looking for where you see God presence in the world and to send them photos that exhibit that presence. (See the article below about “Where is God?”) Joan is also taking the lead to search for resources and plan for a new session of the Wednesday Bible Study group to begin again this Fall.
As we come to the end of my tenure as your Pastor and say Good-bye officially to one another on Sunday I am greatly encouraged that Christ Congregational Church is strong, healthy, and continuing to engage in faithful and dynamic ministry. I hope you are encouraged in that way, too. There will be sadness and tears on Sunday, I am sure. After 24 years we have built a lot of connections together. But I leave knowing that I am leaving a strong, healthy church. As the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the growth.” I know I have planted many seeds. I have laid the best foundation I could. Now it will be in the hands of others to water those seeds, cultivate them, and build on that foundation. Above all, I know God will bless all those efforts and give growth and stability to the life and ministry of Christ Congregational Church.
See you in church.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida