Change and transitions are an inevitable experience of life and they come with mixed emotions. Fear and hesitation, the “what if’s” and the excitement of the unknown, of something new or different. I think back to when my friend, Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber reached out to me in February, asking me if I needed an internship gig for seminary. He said he could connect me with a church in Portland, Seattle, or Alaska. After the initial excitement of an opportunity to go to the Pacific Northwest, I started to question myself and my abilities to work for a church. I was in a place mentally and spiritually where I was taking a break from church and organized religion. I know that sounds ironic coming from a seminary student, but I knew I needed space as I was healing from church hurt. I was also in the process of deconstructing and trying to reconstruct my own faith.
Because of schedules and life circumstances, Dr. Barber and I didn’t reconnect about the internship until May. At this point, I had already told myself that my summer in Seattle would not happen this year. I told myself I would be in a better place spiritually and emotionally to work with a church next summer. Apparently God had other plans for me. On June 8th I had a zoom call with Dr. Barber, Dr. Jess Bielman, and Pastor Paul. That call put everything in motion. It was just a matter of finding a place for me to stay and getting a flight to Seattle. A month later I would be boarding a plane.
The four weeks in between that zoom call and getting on the plane, I went through all the emotions. First was the excitement for the adventure and working with a church who had queer folks like myself in leadership and being able to go to Seattle, a place I’ve wanted to go to for years. Then there was the fear of ‘Am I going to make friends while I’m there?’ (Community has always been really important to me!) Will I live up to the expectations of Pastor Paul? (not that he had put any on me; I put them on myself. Darn perfectionism creeping in.) What will I be able to contribute to this ministry in just six weeks? Preaching scares me, and facilitating small groups hasn’t always gone well for me. I was up for the adventure, though, and I was willing to say yes.
These past six weeks I have learned a lot about myself and a lot from you all. I am grateful for the way you all have embraced me. I’m grateful for the words of encouragement and constructive feedback to help me grow as a preacher, a leader and a person. I learned that I actually like preaching, it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. I have been a part of leading two small group sessions and I have really enjoyed that. I was reminded of my love for writing and being able to share my thoughts and ideas. I have also felt really connected to the community here. In many ways I feel like I am just getting to know you individually and as a church community. I am sad to have to say “goodbye for now” but I am looking forward to the time we will reconnect.
I am grateful to have been a part of this church community at this moment in time– a time of transition and change for your community. I’ve been able to witness and be a part of the way you all have come together in thinking about where the church has been in the past, where it currently is, and your hopes and dreams for the future. I know this can be a time of mixed emotions as well, but I have witnessed y’all embracing those feelings and emotions and saying “yes” to where God is leading you as a congregation. I encourage you to continue to trust the process. Trust God, Pastor Paul, and each other as you go through this time of change and growth and embrace the adventure of the unknown. I look forward to seeing where y’all are next summer, as my plan and hope is to return and continue in ministry with University Gathering.
With sincerest gratitude,