pastor John, at 25 years

I want to thank all of you for acknowledging my being at St. John’s for 25 years. Thanks for letting me hang out here this long. More importantly I want to thank you for being faithful folks who have consistently interpreted the gospel of Jesus Christ, not only on the corner of Lake and Arguello, but in your workplace, your school place, your household, in the world place and to each other. When I first came to St. John’s for Christmas of 1991, I hoped to be here for 4 to 5 years. That was the commitment I felt I could make at that time. When I arrived the primary population of St. John’s was more senior than younger. I have said “goodbye” to many of our wonderful seniors over a generation. I have seen hundreds of families come and go, move away from San Francisco back to where they grew up, out to the suburbs or to a new job opportunity. I have grieved every departure. And yet I celebrate each new arrival of family or individual, as they find their home, their place, their ministry at St. John’s. The joy of each birth, baptism, wedding and even memorial service, has a special place in my memory and life.

Along the way too, there have been times of discouragement, of questioning whether God called me not only to St. John’s, but to the ordained ministry. There have been times of loneliness and confusion, whether I had sufficient expertise, capacity and style. But I have to say that God has taught me that each of us, even me, can be used for God’s intent, as strange and wonderful as that may be at times.

I was counseled by a wise senior of St. John’s that for many San Francisco has always been a destination city, a city to where people migrate for a time and then go, a city which invites adventure, as well as challenge to the pocketbook. My great tests of ministry have been in saying goodbye to many, adapting ministries to our mobile community and to encourage new leaders as other leaders depart. To be nimble with those who are part of our church community, to adapt, to integrate early on and to make sure that nothing hinges on one person alone so there is less disruption when one departs, has been important to our mission. This invites experimenting with how to develop community, how to encourage folks to connect with one another. As a very mixed group of folks, who may normally not choose one another as friends or associates, encouraging the trust of one another, vulnerability with one another, is an enterprise. But I have to say that you all are very remarkable in welcoming, being open with and engaging new folks who come in, as well as long-term folks who you have yet to get to know.

Over 25 years I have seen a developing leadership style among you which thinks less about maintaining and protecting the status quo, and more about learning and seeking new ways to extend ourselves into the world, into our community, always with a God-inspired creativity and entrepreneurial-ness.

Whether you have been here for two weeks or for a lifetime I thank you, that you in your own way bring something special to St. John’s, that teaches, that leads, and that brings innovative ideas and imagination to our ministry together. Along the way you have brought that to me as well, keeping me invigorated and inspired toward novel ways of being a pastor at St. John’s.

I am so grateful to Pastor Theresa, for her willingness to be co-pastor, for her 13 years of stability, for bringing encouragement, inspiration and an ongoing turning of the soil here at St. John’s, which truly contributes to my sense of innovation and sense of God’s presence among us all.

Nancy, my partner for life, has been my rock, my encourager, and without her, I would not have been able to sustain any balance or energy for what I needed to be and do. She is an incredible force of graciousness and compassion who has always been supportive and has guided my efforts and decisions with wisdom and the greater perspective.

I am tremendously grateful for your acceptance of me over the years, for my inexperience, my foolishness, my failings and all the transformations I personally have gone through, all the changes I have made, all the fresh ways I have sensed God calling me, in spurts and starts, calling all of us into new dimensions of mission. I thank you for your forgiveness, your inspiration, your consistency and your new sense of call to me. I thank God for you all, and for the months and years to come, whatever that may look like.

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