Change, Part 2

“Day and Night” by M.C. Escher, 1937; from the book Change by Paul Watzlawick & John Weakland, W.W. Norton, 1974.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship
- Romans 12:1 RSV

Dear Friends,

Sometimes it seems that the only constant in life is change. As much as we treasure the members of our families and friends and the things we have done for generations past, we all know that our children become adults, friends sometimes move out-of-state, homes fall into disrepair, and other changes happen for which we have not planned. Whether it is the closing of Pat Catan’s, the opening of Aldi or new construction on N. Court Street or changes in our weather patterns, we have all learned that change is a constant. Our challenge is a matter of what we do with it.

You may remember the article I wrote for you last year entitled “Change” where I mentioned one of those books I had read some 40 years before and how it impressed me. At the time I wrote:

It seems that when my life situation begins to settle down, another change is just waiting around the corner. I think we all know it to be true - whether it’s a change in jobs, or homes, or health. Sometimes it’s a graduation. Sometimes it’s the death of a friend. Sometimes it’s the economy. The devil of it is, it seems, that the older we get the more often change lies in waiting for us and pounces upon us when we do not expect it. (May 25, 2018, referring to Change by Paul Watzlawick & John Weakland, 1974.)

However, there is often an upside to change. In the article I told you that the book:

... does not complain about being caught unawares, but tells in detail how change opens new possibilities that we would otherwise never consider. In fact, the authors talk about how our human nature resists change even when it might be good for us. They discuss the old saying, “the more something changes the more it remains the same.”

At that time, however, I did not anticipate that I would be saying farewell to all of you at this time. I have had the privilege to be your pastor for more than four and a half years. We began on Sunday, November 2, 2014. Together, we saw the excavation of the church basement, Christmas caroling, numerous pageants at Christmas and Easter, confirmation class and new members, Memorial Day parades, ice cream socials, vacation Bible school, working at the Medina County Fair, not to mention special services of worship during Advent/Christmas and Lent plus funerals and weddings and nursing home visits plus a host of many other dinners, meetings, and experiences. Without doubt, our time together has been phenomenal.

Early in May, this year, I received a call from the Akron area superintendent of the United Methodist Church asking if I would be willing to serve the Lockwood U.M. Church located south of Akron on Manchester Rd. The congregation has been averaging about 40 people on Sunday mornings in a building that had worshiped more than 600 each Sunday in the 1970s. They needed a pastor who was familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous, food pantries, clothing exchanges, study groups, children’s ministries, and willing to do pastoral calling, hospital visits and having the ability to lead creative worship and music - plus be willing to serve part-time because the congregation is not able to afford more than a half-time salary without a parsonage, pension, or healthcare. I told the superintendent that I was already serving the Litchfield congregation and if I were to leave, their welfare had to be assured.

After considerable thought and knowing that the denomination was in crisis posibly leading to schism, I felt that my call back to the United Methodist must be timely and needed, particularly in light of my experience in education, Christian service, and conflict management. I also spoke with our Association’s General Minister (United Church of Christ) who assured me that she would help Litchfield find proper leadership.

On May 12 we announced at Litchfield my departure (My last Sunday was to be June 2.). At their next meeting our Church Council began planning for worship on the Sundays in June and I was assured, with the help of our UCC association, that the congregation will be ably led by outstanding leaders every Sunday in the months ahead.

I will miss all of you and look forward to hearing from you to know how things continue. I feel privileged to have been your pastor for the time we have had together. As I transition to begin this new adventure, I want you to know that you will always have a friend in Akron.

Blessings always,

‒ Pastor Jim