Gilbertsville, PA 19525
Saturday 5 pm
Sunday 8 am, 9:00 am & 10:30 am
Thanks for the perfect retirement party. Nancy and I agree that it was like our wedding day--so much happened and it went so fast that you could not take it all in. I know that Pastor Gil Vining, Amy Bates, Eric Sweinhart, Liz Buckwalter, Anita Kratz, Marjorie Compton, Craig Biondi and the Leadership Council had key roles but it was all kept secret from me so thanks to all who helped and all of you who gave gifts and all of you who came and all of you who wanted to be there but were not able.
Our resident church artists Jon and Kimberly Stemler crafted a beautiful and creative three foot version of our chapel cross that will always remind Nancy and me of what Jesus did for us, and also of the incredible thirty years serving here with you at NHUMC. And we are both already eagerly anticipating the trip to Israel you gave us. We know our understanding of, and appreciation for, what God has done for all of us will grow.
The party was so good on so many levels. I was deeply touched by your expressions of love and gratitude. When someone you love is honored you are honored too. I am very grateful my family could be blessed on this occasion. And saying goodbye well helps us to welcome new opportunities with enthusiasm. The future here at NHUMC is very bright. At its core this “party” was a worship service to thank God for what He has done here.
It has been my great honor and joy to be the organizing pastor of New Hanover United Methodist Church. I will hold you all and the ministry God has given you in my heart and in my prayers always.
You intertwine your fingers against the palms and say, “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people!” The church building is where the people gather and worship and plan. The church buildings and grounds are a tool that God uses to enable ministry to happen out in this community and across the world.
The 25 acres and all the building and facilities of New Hanover UMC are a very important asset in our work. We recently negotiated a resetting of our mortgage that lowered our interest rate with our bank, BB&T. So this morning our Trustee President John Major and Trustee Jim Tsakonas were here to sign some papers. As they were leaving John said with great satisfaction, “In seven years all our loans will be paid off.” I said, “I think you need to build again before seven years is up, but that is for Pastor Ricky to worry about.”
As I approach retirement on June 30, I feel my excitement growing. I am ready to begin a new phase in my life. But I can feel my sadder emotions moving too. Leaving a ministry and a people I have dedicated my life to for the last 30 years is a very big deal.
I have received a few unsigned letters during my 43 years in ordained ministry. They have not been very nice. My response to them is to read them briefly and then throw them away. I don’t think an unsigned critical letter is helpful for building up the body of Christ. But last week I received an unsigned complimentary letter, and I am not throwing this one away. Why would a person send such kind thoughts and not sign their name? Whoever you are, if you are reading this, thank you very much! The person typed out the letter so I can’t even get clues from the hand writing. They were touched be the sermon and service on Palm Sunday. They liked the way I weaved together the tragedy of 14-year old Julia Morath’s death and the tragedy of Passion Week when Jesus suffered and died for us. And they particularly liked what I said about how we should help people who are grieving. Here is what they wrote:
If you have had the blessing of being a parent you know how Jason and Catie Collier are feeling. Jason, our Pastor for Worship and Catie, a public school music teacher and our children’s choir director had their first child, Lydia Grace on Saturday, March 18.
Frances Chan calls the Holy Spirit the “Forgotten God” for good reason. Many Christian churches have historically focused more on God the Father and God the Son.
One of the strengths of Methodism is that our founder, John Wesley, was a very balanced and biblical theologian. Wesley never forgot or neglected the third person in the Trinity.
But some denominations have tended to mistrust other Christians who seek and experience outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit. I remember years ago when Pastor Steve DeFrain of Morningstar Fellowship, an Assembly of God church, first began attending the Boyertown Area Ministerial Association. BAMA, a gathering of Christian pastors and workers in the Boyertown area meets once a month for business and once a month for prayer.
At the time the ministerium was dominated by ‘mainline’ denominations that did not typically practice or lift up the more outward and emotional ‘gifts’ of the spirit. I sensed some hesitance to let Steve in.
I did my best to kid Steve and light heartedly poke at Pentecostal practices at our meetings. And he took to the kidding so well and so humbly that he was fairly soon fully accepted and trusted.
Through the years I have been pleased to see the ministerium grow both more diverse and more unified. We can all learn from one another.
I know I feel like I am learning from our current Spiritual Campaign about the Holy Spirit. What is impressing me is that the Holy Spirit is a person in the Godhead who acts! You cannot see the Spirit, but you can see what the Holy Spirit does, changes, teaches, empowers, reveals, produces and helps.
I can see the Holy Spirit moving obviously and clearly in the lives of people and the ministry of this congregation. I can see the Holy Spirit moving and active in spirit filled worship of many kinds.
John Wesley and Frances Chan have it right. We should never neglect or forget the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Be Bold. Be Humble. Be Like Jesus!
Like most men I do my best not to cry in public. Crying, boys are told, is not what big boys and men do. But of course men do cry in private and in public when we lose the ability to control and hide our emotions.
I believe men are in general just as emotional as women. It’s just that we tend to manage our emotions differently. Women it seems to me are more comfortable with certain emotions. They don’t see crying as an indication of weakness but as a sign of caring and compassion.
The Bible makes it clear that one of God’s characteristics is compassion. God feels for us and with us when we suffer. Jesus is compassionate. He weeps for Jerusalem. He weeps for himself and humanity on the Mt. of Olives and on the cross.
Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ God wants us to ‘feel’ for one another.
Last Friday I went to see the movie “Lion” about a boy in India separated from his family, adopted by an Australian couple and his quest to discover his roots as a grown man. The film grips your heart from the beginning.
I was doing my best not to wipe the tear that was running down my cheek lest anyone know that I was crying. And then something happened in the film and I let out an involuntary gasp/moan from the back of my throat and everyone around me knew I was crying. It was embarrassing.
But if we are going to be like Jesus we are supposed to be “clothed with compassion”. It is never wrong to feel for someone else.
So men listen to God and not the norms of society. Go and see a movie that makes you cry. Have compassion for others and remember that God has compassion for you.
Be Bold. Be Humble. Be Like Jesus!
Well the word is out. Pastor José "Ricky" Ayala will be the senior pastor here at New Hanover UMC on July 1st. We had to wait until the people at Conshohocken UMC had been told before it was announced here.
The loss of their pastor and his family is hitting them hard in Conshohocken. We should all be praying for them and praying that the right person will be appointed to lead that congregation.
Pastor Ricky has met our Leadership Council and went out to lunch with seventeen of our staff members on Wednesday. When I ask them what they think of Pastor Ricky I get nothing but thumbs up. They already see his ability and humility.
In fact, two members of our church staff have checked with me to make sure that all the positive focus and anticipation on Pastor Ricky was not hurting my feelings. It is not.
I am the organizing pastor of this congregation. This church is my ‘baby’. If you have a son or daughter who is getting married, you want their mate to be the greatest person on earth – kind, strong, hardworking, committed to Christ, patient, funny, loving, brave, etc.
I don’t feel the slightest twinge of jealousy or neglect. All I want is for you and Pastor Ricky Ayala to have a great marriage. I want you to have a great relationship. I want him to love you with everything he’s got. I want you to, love him with everything you’ve got.
Why? Because there is nothing on earth more important than the kingdom work Jesus Christ has given us to do. And when a pastor and congregation love and trust one another the kingdom work gets done.
I believe we have had that kind of relationship. I am praying it will be the same for you and Pastor Ayala. God has lots of work for you to do. I am excited to see it get done.