Last weekend, Emma Kate and I made a road trip to LaGrange Georgia, where my brother-in-law, Rev. James Goodlet was installed as the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. We joined my parents and James’ parents, my siblings and his, and lots of cousins to support and celebrate this time of transition and growth for James and my sister, Margaret. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that my family made a similar move.
In addition, Campus Minister Ashley-Anne Masters and I also served on the Commission of the Greater Atlanta Presbytery that officially installed James in his new call. Ashley-Anne and James graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary together in 2007, and have maintained a colleague friendship that has been vital for them both. She offered the Charge to the Pastor. I did the Charge to the Congregation, reminding them how important this first year of ministry will be as the relationship between pastor and congregation develops, noting that they are now the congregation entrusted to honor the commitment made to my niece, Louise and my nephew, Sam in baptism, and asking them to take care of my sister as she balances the needs of her family with the needs of their church family. These are all things that Rev. Jody Welker said to you at my installation!
This weekend the girls and I are going to Virginia to meet two families from the congregation I served in Philadelphia. All of our collective eight children were baptized at East Falls Presbyterian Church. It was my privilege to baptize all of them except mine. We invited other pastors to stand with us then so that I could stand with Drew and answer the questions to the parents. Now Rev. Kari Olson serves as their pastor, and you now live out the commitments made to Ruth, Margaret and Emma Kate in baptism. In the meantime, while I have been away, worship at West Raleigh was tended by Rev. David Wiseman last week and Rev. Andy James this week. West Raleigh and David go all the way back to the 70’s when David served as Interim Pastor. Andy is the Associate for Small Church Ministries and Technology at the Presbytery of New Hope. Although Andy will be a new friend to many of you, he is already connected to West Raleigh through his service to the Presbytery. You will like him, I promise!
All of this is what we mean when we say that the Presbyterian Church is a connectional church. West Raleigh is one congregation of a much larger family of faith. We are one member of a much larger Body made up of a collection of pastors and congregations, family and chosen family. These connections are part of our identity. They come with the territory, and they take time to establish, nurture and tend. These connections are one way that God reminds us that we are never alone. We go on this journey together, and no matter where we go, the Body will be there to welcome us home. I have tested this Presbyterian way of life, and I can testify to its truth. So, while I missed you all in worship last week, and I really do not like to be away for two weeks in a row, I appreciate and adore all of these connections that make us who we are, sustain us on the journey and remind us that God’s love and promise is like the waters of baptism, flowing freely giving life to his whole Body.
Enjoy getting to know Andy this Sunday, church, and I will see you in worship on the 27th!