Dear friends at St. Peter and in the Hillyard Neighborhood,
As I write this letter, there are so many emotions that I can only begin to express. I feel grief in the process of leaving, joy as I remember the time that we have spent together, regret that we did not have more time to share, and love as I consider how I have seen God in my life and in yours. In this cocktail of emotions, each pops up and then fades away, continuing a cycle of feelings that are powerfully meaningful to me. At the center of this cycle and undergirding each emotion I am experiencing is a great feeling of gratitude.
I am so grateful to all of you reading this, and to many more who will never see these words. You took me in- a young man straight from seminary who thought he knew a thing or two about ministry- and you taught me how to be a pastor. You taught me how to relate to people as I sit with them after worship, in their houses, on street corners, and in hospitals, nursing facilities, and funeral homes. You taught me how to share my experience of God’s love through preaching and teaching, and how to amplify others’ voices when my words and ideas simply weren’t enough. You taught me compassion and love for our homeless neighbors, people coming to receive food and blessings, and many others who I very well may not have encountered in a different setting. You taught me that being a pastor is much more than knowledge of theology and historical facts. You taught me to see my call as a pastor as something God has given me, which the community validates, holding me accountable to all the rights and responsibilities that title brings.
These lessons were so important to me because I simply did not realize the complex nature of being a pastor. Through our year together, we have had incredible triumphs and we have taken some pretty difficult lumps. In each of these circumstances, God has called us to work together, to grow in grace and mercy, and to more fully rely on God’s providence to carry us through. The faith of this community is strong, and I have benefitted greatly from being part of a congregation and neighborhood that takes the promises of God seriously. Your faith has inspired me and motivated me to continue to grow in mine. I always thought being a pastor meant being the one instilling faith in others, but I now realize we share this burden of faith together, mutually encouraging one another along in our journey with Christ. Where I thought it was only my job to give God’s love, I learned that there are gracious ways to receive the gospel from many I never expected to carry the message to me.
Ultimately, this gratitude I feel stems from this realization: I do not do the work of a pastor alone. You have taught me, encouraged me, held me to a high standard, and loved me through it all. You have been the love of God through Christ to me, and I have been forever changed because of our experiences together. I will carry these lessons and this love with me as I go forward into whatever that next thing God has in store.
So again, thank you. From the bottoms of our hearts, Katrina, Phoebe and I want you to know how much you have all meant to us, and it is our prayer that we have done even half as much for you as you have done for us.
For now, this is goodbye. But we have a God who thrives in the connective space between people, places, and actions. I truly believe that, even if we don’t see each other again in this world, we will carry one another in the memories of our souls. And on that day, we will again be together in the fullness of God’s love, forever.
Amen. Peace be with you. Christ be with you.
In his name,
Intern Pastor Seth Rumage