The day I walked out of Christmount when I retired in February, 2019, after 29 years and 9 months of being on staff, I said simply (and mysteriously), "So long, and thanks for all the fish!" It was a reference to the dolphins leaving earth as it was being destroyed to put a space highway through that section of the Milky Way, and an utterly ridiculous way to walk out - but I didn't care: I wanted it to be memorable to me. Some of you, I'm sure, are Hitchhiker fans!
While it was utter nonsense, our Executive Director got it: what in the world can you say in a situation like that, where people you had worked with for years were kind of sad (thank God!) and watching 30 years of history and ministry walking out the door?
Since I've used it once, I won't do it again (as tempting as it is - everyone needs a trademark, huh?); but it does lead me to my final message to you.
Renae and I have loved being at First Christian Church, Wilson. I arrived almost 50 years after my first college visit, and a little prior to my entering Atlantic Christian College in August, 1972. I found that very fitting as I began a major interim ministry; I committed to almost a year; we're now at the end of 18 months! This church was the only church I visited my freshman year, and I only came once; but UCCF (United Campus Christian Fellowship) met here monthly, and some of you fed us regularly.
Some of you I have known me my entire ministerial life - from camps and youth ministry in the Coastal Plains District. Renae came in only knowing a few of you, although some of you recall when she came down to lead a CWF retreat back in the early 2000's, I think (she was sick with a cold and somehow managed to get through it, including singing!); she met some folks who remembered her on our occasional trips to church when we would visit Todd.
I'm glad that Renae was able to find Wilson a good place to be for her art. She sold some of her "greeting cards" at the Selkie (and is still doing that online through their web site), and sold some of her devotional books downtown. She met some folks in the art community and will have those friendships for the rest of her life! She's also a person who walks almost daily, and even though some Wilsonians decided to try and drive on the sidewalks or run red lights to run her over, she managed to survive! But many of you have reached out to her to include her in your lives, and we are both appreciative of that.
Everyone has been telling me what a great job I did here. But you know who did the really good job? You. You didn't wait for me to decide on a direction to take you: you were already headed that way!
You've grabbed the bull by the horns over and over again. I didn't have to help set things up for special occasions (I did help move a few tables a couple of times, but that's about it!). You greeted visitors with your warmth, joy, and love. You've been kind to the occasional homeless person who walks in off the street. You've begun a relationship with St. James Christian Church, working to do local outreach. You've supported food drives, Hope Station and other helping agencies around town, Casey and the choirs and the entire music ministry, Margaret Hearne School, the Pride Festival, the concerts in the winter and summer, the community Hymn Sing at Forest Hills Baptist Church, and been a light in general to the community here. I didn't do that, I didn't suggest it, I didn't start it: you did it all.
My prayer for you is that you will welcome Scott and Beth and that your ministry together will be even stronger. There's a lot of creativity in this place, so I can't wait to see how that all plays out. There's untapped energy waiting to be utilized. There are new people willing to step forward into leadership.
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.