Closing Ceremony


This is my last newsletter article as your pastor which means that it’s also … AWARDS TIME! Yes, it’s that time in which I look back and reflect on the best (and worst) moments of my pastoral appointment at Kessler Park UMC.

Before we begin, let me say that it has been sheer joy to serve as your pastor. It’s truly been a great appointment, and I have appreciated every moment of it. Thank you for your generosity, your kindness, and your patience.

But now to the awards …

Best Worship Moment: I have a multitude of specific memories from our worship together, including all the special services for Holy Week and Christmas, as well as funerals, weddings, and other times. But our best moments together were when we were at Holy Communion. There is no moment more sacred for a pastor than to serve the elements to each of his members, one by one. Over time, I knew what to expect from each of you — how some of you like to have the bread placed in your hand, others reach for it, some clasp my hand as I give it, some make the sign of the cross before receiving. I learned that Susan Baxley, Paige Bell, and Margot and Sylvie Tomerlin needed the gluten-free bread. I loved giving bread to small children and saying, “This bread shows you that God loves you!” There is nothing like the act of serving communion; thank you for receiving the sacrament from me these past five years!

Worst Creative Worship Idea: There are a lot of candidates in this category, I’ll admit. For example, I dressed up as Captain Bluetastic for a Children’s Time, brought a huge Jenga set onto the chancel, did an improv sermon with my comedy coach, and used all sorts of props. Some things worked, others didn’t. At least I tried to liven things up, right?! But probably the worst idea I tried — the one I cringe at when I bring it to mind — was a Christmas Eve children’s service a couple of years ago when I dressed up as a tour guide for Tony’s Holy Land Tours and led kids around the sanctuary visiting various scenes from the birth of Jesus. Probably the worst thing about it was my obnoxious faux Italian accent.

Favorite Children’s Time Moment: When Paige Bell was our Children’s Minister, she made the mistake of teaching the Hand Prayer to the children in worship. This is a method which involves a different kind of prayer corresponding to each different finger on one’s hand. From the moment she started, we all knew that disaster loomed … and sure enough, Grey Mecca was the one who proudly showed us all his middle finger!

Favorite Special Music: I loved hearing church members use their musical talents outside of the traditional music ministry. Some of my favorite memories include: Mattie Jette singing solo, a cappella, without a microphone because if she did, the roof would be blown off the building!; Nathaniel Ogren playing guitar and singing original compositions; Rob Ballard singing, “Give Me Jesus”; Jim Shoecraft singing “The Old Rugged Cross”; Hannah Price playing every time she was home from college; and every time any one of our children has ever sung, played piano, played violin, or performed in a musical. Honorable mention: even though this didn’t occur in a Sunday morning worship service, I was blown away by the woman who “played bowls” during Jeff Chandler’s memorial service. The music she made was intensely peaceful and calming.

Best Potluck Dishes: This is a dangerous topic because I am likely to leave out someone’s mother’s beloved casserole, but I’ll go out on a limb anyway. I will miss Oscar Brown’s BBQ meatballs which he brought in a crockpot. There were always leftovers which I managed to sneak home to the parsonage. I will also miss Mary Ann Climer’s gumbo and paella which also often happened to make it to the parsonage. Anything baked by Phyllis Smith is worth paying attention to; she often brought fresh-baked warm banana or pumpkin bread to staff meetings, for which I am eternally grateful. And by the way, Eugenia Williams always brought food, even if she never made it herself. She gets brownie points nonetheless.

Best Outdoor Event: Every chance I get, I remind y’all that your property is a blessing, one of the biggest assets that the church has for ministry and mission. I loved the various ways in which the church uses the campus for creating community, from movie nights to community picnics, from Stations of the Cross to Easter egg hunts. But my favorite outdoor event has to be the Palm Sunday service. I recall having the idea of bringing a live donkey to my first Palm Sunday service on the front lawn; the last two years, we’ve had a blues service on the east lawn. I hope you continue the tradition of outdoor worship at least once a year; it’s a beautiful way to take the church outside its own doors.

Finally, the category you’ve all been waiting for … Best Church Member! And the winner is …

You! Congratulations!!