Today was my last Sunday as Children and Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church of Weaverville, NC. I will begin my new role as pastor at Ecclesia Baptist on August 12. I wrote the letter below for the August 2018 FBCW newsletter that came out today.
For five years, I’ve been a part of the FBCW family as member and as minister. Reflecting on my time here, I’m struck by how much life we have shared since I joined you. Back when I started, Garrett Spivey was in the 7th grade and—much to his frustration—was barely 5’0 tall. David Stone was on crutches and Christin, pregnant with Jonathan, was on bedrest. Dave Miller still drove the golf cart for the fair ministry, Dawn and Irene Edwards sang in the choir every Sunday, Mary Porter crafted handmade cards for the CARE Ministry, and Juanita Mantel was making delicious magic in our kitchen.
Indeed, our church family has experienced the fullness of life during these past five years. Now as we transition from what has been to what will be, I am reminded of lessons I have learned from my own family over the years.
As a preacher’s daughter, I left churches several times throughout my childhood. In my grief over leaving beloved church family, I would cry out to my mother that I wished I had not made any friends at all in that place because leaving them was just too hard. My mother consoled me saying, “It is always right to love with your whole heart. Fearing the pain of loss is never a good enough reason to withhold your love.” Thank you, FBCW for loving me well. My prayers is that you will love your next ministers with as much devotion as you have loved me.
Once when my father resigned from a church, a number of members told him that if he was leaving, they were going to leave too. He was deeply aggrieved about this which I found surprising.
“Daddy, that should make you feel good! It’s because they love you so much!”
“Oh no, Aileen,” Daddy said. “The church is bigger than any one person, even if that person is their minister.”
I have never forgotten this wisdom. It is painful when someone leaves our church family; that pain is not relieved by breaking the fellowship, but by wholeheartedly honoring our covenant to each other.
My brother was a youth minister for more than two decades. When he would begin a new position, he inevitably faced resistance by those whose loyalty remained with his predecessor. Far too often, when he proposed changes or offered new ideas, he was regaled with nostalgic tales of times of old. It was exhausting for him and it limited his ministry. We have certainly shared some wonderful times together. Store those memories and open your hearts and minds to make new ones with my successor.
We’ve had five golden years together. In the words of Amy Grant, “Let me say once more that I love you...and I love the ways that you love me.”
Grace and peace!
Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.