Last week, the sale of our church property and buildings was finalized. Fifteen months after we had made the decision to list the property and begin looking for a new place to gather. Fifteen long months on the heels of an even longer time period that equipped us to make that decision. Now, we have offices and worship space that we are using at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. We will sojourn there for an undefined but temporary season. We are less than five miles from our former location and yet it is a whole new world.
A flood of emotion washed over me as the sale was completed. The emotion was not really about the building. Although, I did take time to sit in the empty sanctuary and remember all that the building has meant to me. I remembered where I sat for Opening Convocation my first semester of seminary. At that point, I had no idea of where my vocational path would lead. I listened to Victoria Atkinson White preach and thought to myself, “If I ever preach, I want to preach like her.” I remember gazing at the stained glass window full of wonder about what God was doing with me; so certain I was called but not knowing yet to what I was called.
As I sat and remembered, I let the tears pour down my cheeks. They were tears of release as I mark this phase of this big work as complete.
When I began my work as the pastor of Ginter Park Baptist Church almost five years ago (as I write, we are right at the anniversary of when the search committee travelled to Charlotte to hear me preach), I had no idea this is where we would go together. When I did start to understand that my work with them would be centered on leadership through difficult conversations and transition, I wan’t always happy about it. This wasn’t work I wanted to do. I wan’t really sure I had it in me to do this work. And yet, to such work I was called and to such I have given my all.
I have begun calling this particular work I have done with Ginter Park my “Big Work”. My goal all along the way, was simple: to lead them well. I did not have a particular outcome in mind. I simply wanted to lead them with integrity, authenticity, and courage. I wanted to lead them in a way which fostered transformation and growth. I wanted to lead with fearlessness, faith, and hope.
All of my work with Ginter Park these five years has been part of this Big Work, culminating in this moment. The tears were in recognition of the magnitude of the moment and of all we have experienced and done together in so short a time.
I sat in the sanctuary and took a much needed pause to let this day soak in. As I did, I felt overwhelmed with two things – gratitude and peace. Gratitude for the work of others that helped prepare this way; for the companionship of wise friends and colleagues; for the understanding and support of my family; and greatest of all, gratitude for the surprises of resurrection and pentecost in my own soul and the soul of this church. And peace in knowing that I have led them well.
I did my best for them. I gave my all to this work. I am satisfied that what I gave was not only enough but was good. This is the hardest work I have ever done, and, is the most meaningful. There were days I prayed just to make it through. But I didn’t just survive this difficult work, I was transformed and blessed by it.
They call the finalizing of the sale the “closing”, but, that word is far too confining and small for what we are experiencing. It is a closing in the sense that this is the closing of a chapter for us. The corner of Brook Road and Laburnum Avenue will not feature in our future as it has in our past; impacting everything from our mailing address to the core of our identity. But, we’re already living in the next chapter and it is a great one. This may be an end, but we’ve already been beginning anew. This moment is a closing and an opening.