Three months ago, Sissy and I sat with our District Superintendent as she told us that we would be moving to Rock Hill and Aldersgate UMC. She told us not to drive to Rock Hill to have a quick peek, but then told us to drive safely because she knew that there would be more UM pastors on the road the next day than truckers. We came. We parked in the gym parking lot across the street, feeling a lot like spies in a foreign land. We looked. We dreamed. And we asked ourselves a lot of questions: What do they like to do? How will our gifts and graces help this church? Are they excited about ministry? Will they like us? Will they let us love them? Perhaps you asked similar questions when you found out who would be your next parsonage family.
Here’s what I heard when I asked friends about Aldersgate: “Oh, you are going to love them.” “Great people.” “What a good church.” “You and Sissy are going to fit in so well.” Aldersgate people have already taught me a new word, “woot,” and have sent me my first-text-ever beginning with the word “Hark.” Sissy and I are very excited to see what else we will be able to offer each other for years to come. We feel so blessed to be coming to you to share life, faith and discipleship with you. We thank God for you. Now, let me tell you why.
July is family reunion month for my family. We always meet at Lake Junaluska on the 4th. It is a tradition that my great grandfather started more than 100 years ago. There are lots of pastors in my family and he knew that this was a day when all of us would be available to attend. We sit on a porch and cheer as the parade goes by. We sit on the same porch and “ooh” and “aah” together as fireworks light the sky. We share stories. We get caught up on the news from our relatives, many of whom we haven’t seen since the last reunion. And we do it all over tables piled high with delicious food. We celebrate the freedoms we enjoy and honor the men and women who continue to make them possible. “Freedom isn’t free” and “All gave some; some gave all” are so much more than polite expressions for us. My grandfather served in the Navy. My father was a pilot and Air Force Chaplain for 33 years. I was an Air Force Chaplain for ten years. When someone asks you, “Where do you call home?” you can probably tell them, naming a town or a city. I never lived anywhere long enough in life to call a place “home.” When someone asks me, “Where do you call home?” I have only one answer to give: “the church.” The church was always there when I was growing up. At church, I was loved because of who I was and, sometimes, despite who I was. People put their arms around me at church. I learned how much God loves me at church. No matter what crazy “teenager” things I did, people refused to give up on me at church. Church is the place I call “home.” Church is family for me. When Sissy and I arrive at Aldersgate, we will be coming home to a place we have never been. And that is why I say, my brothers and sisters, my family, we feel so blessed to be coming to you to share life, faith and discipleship with you. We thank God for you. Steve