Today we blessed a pastor named Tom Thews who has been on our pastoral staff here at church for the last three and a half years. He is a tall man. With a kind and loving heart. Cares for people and loves Jesus. Tom loves food and photography and his Triumph sports car.
So we had people contribute to a love gift. We invited the congregation to come together today for a noon catered meal. Paula Dill had balloons and cool signs all over the Fellowship Hall where the meal was held. People went into the Sanctuary for a blessing time. We sang a couple of hymns, people said some things, we gave them a gift, and then people gathered around Tom and Linda to pray for them...bless them.
As the lead pastor here I do everything I can to help our congregation thank the pastors who have loved us and served Jesus with us.
I love Tom. He is going to be nearby in a South Bend parish. We'll stay in touch and I expect to see a lot of him.
Still, I felt some sadness. God is going to use Tom and Linda in the new place. Trinity has good things ahead. God is good...God is generous. But I still felt sadness watching people approach Tom and Linda...talk with him... hug them.
A friend tells me grief is cumulative. And I have said "goodbye" to a lot of good friends who have been in ministry with me. I left the staff at Trinity years ago, when I was an associate pastor, and said goodbye to my senior pastor, Mark Blaising. As a lead pastor I have said goodbye to people like Milly McCann, Ted Jansen, Kurt Nichols, Kerry O'Brien, Toni Carmer, and now Tom. I feel every departure. Most of the people I have served with have become dear friends.
I work hard to keep my game face in place. To keep leading. Do my best to see that our church is leaning forward. Moving on. But inside my heart sags a little.
It isn't just a roster change: a friend has stepped out and moved on. They're not walking these halls. They're not on the other side of the wall where I can talk to them, easily. Ask questions. Work together to solve a problem. Laugh at the nuttiness of life.
It isn't just a roster change. Something has changed. For me. For us as a church. A piece of us will be missing because God has tapped Tom on the shoulder and said, "I need you in a new place."
The cool thing, of course, is each one of these people has left something of themselves with us. There is more joy and kindness in our life at Trinity because of Tom. He leaves that with us as a gift.