Hi dear friends – here’s the headline of this email - I’ve decided, after TONS of prayer and thought, to “retire” from the full-time pastoral ministry this calendar year.
Now, here’s the story that you deserve to know with as much detail as I can share in this manner. Before I open my heart to you in what I’m thinking and feeling about this decision, know that you are loved. Vicky and I have been so blessed in the past five years that we have shared with all of you: life in Jesus and His mission. We are and will be eternally grateful for your love, friendship, generosity, and support. To have the opportunity to share this precious time with you has been an unparalleled blessing in our lives. You have graciously given me the trust to lead you into a new life in Jesus as well as the building of a strategy and philosophy of congregational ministry that I believe will solidify the spiritual health and vitality of both Our Savior and Shepherd of the Mountain churches for years to come.
As you can imagine, the decision to retire from full-time congregational ministry this year was a challenging one. As you most likely know, I have been saying for years that I would wait until I was close to 70 years old to make this move in my life. I just turned 66 last November, so on the surface even considering this change seems a bit premature. Even so, life’s circumstances change and the movement of God in my heart and my desire to be responsive to His leading is unmistakable and undeniable. I’m making this decision for a number of reasons - first of all, I’ve got Vicky in mind. I love my wife and our lives together in Jesus. Second, only to the Lord is my commitment to be a God-honoring husband and friend to Vicky. Vicky is about 5 years older than I am. The truth is, she’s followed me all over the country as I’ve followed God’s call to professional, local congregational ministry for a LONG time. Yet, we’ve entered into a new season in life that many of you who are reading this have embraced...our senior years. Because of that fact, I have been prompted to reconsider my choices. One thing you may not know is that Vicky is the only living person on her side of the family, having lost her entire family (parents, siblings, etc.) to illness. I believe that “raises the temperature” for my desire to give her an opportunity to live close to our daughter, Tiffany, in Colorado (who is her oldest biological child - as you may recall, she lost her biological son to suicide while we were in Monroe). I want to give her that opportunity sooner than later.
But there’s more to the story…my dad’s death in October got my attention in ways that still surprise me. The Lord has spoken to my heart about the rapid passage of time and the suddenness of what can happen when a person’s health takes a very sharp downward turn. It has also been during that period of time where I’ve experienced my first chronic health issue. I’ve had some stomach issues that the doctors and I are still trying to solve. The Lord has and is using those experiences to shape some of how I’m feeling about my next steps. Of course, the past year in facing down a world-wide pandemic and the extra time, energy, and stress that has accompanied the ministry and personal decisions that I have had to make have prompted some profoundly new perspectives on life and how I’m spending my time in this season of life.
So this calendar year I’m going to retire from full-time church work and move to Northern Colorado where Tiffany, her husband, Mark, and three of our grandgirls live. In addition, I have extended family in Colorado including my one sister, Dawn, who carried the majority of the weight of caring for our father for almost 20 years on her own. I believe that sharing this next season of life with her, her children and grandchildren, and my other sister and her family will be rewarding. I am the eldest child in my family, now the eldest in our extended family as well. It just feels right to make this move. We do have two other wonderful adult children that we adore (as well as four other beautiful grandgirls) that do not live in Colorado (one is in Boise and the other in Arizona). To not share in a common geographical location as a family is difficult (as many of you know) but nevertheless, we are committed to being active and present in their lives as long as God enables us to do so.
I didn’t want to announce anything while we were still in the most difficult COVID days. Yet, the availability of the vaccine has been helpful in spreading some much-needed cultural “hope” (we have hope in Jesus which transcends what the culture can provide even with the astounding miracles of medical discoveries) especially in what’s going on here at both churches in Long Valley. I am anticipating that after Easter this year, our congregation will start to see some movement toward a “new” normal. We will be inclined (as you already know given my last email announcement to both congregations regarding our health safety measures) to start easing up on our live worship health and safety COVID-19 protocols (mask and social distancing mandates). That should start giving all the people in our congregations permission to join “in-person” ministry activities. In addition, I’ve already started to prepare our leaders at both congregations for the necessary “re-booting” of vital ministries (which will most likely begin to occur sometime this summer). I’m committed to leading both churches into the summer months of this year and then set a specific date during the summer season as my goal for retirement from full-time church work. There is much work to do in solidifying our ministry purpose, vision, and strategy. That work along with God’s ever-present power and guidance will ensure a transition into even brighter days and years ahead as you live and labor side by side in Jesus. God has inspired and enabled us to build a very “user-friendly” environment that capitalizes on the unique opportunities for doing ministry in a recreational area. We’ve also focused on building bridges into the community that has paid off in a renewed commitment to disciple-making. Praise God for all that Jesus has done in and through us over these years together.
Friends, understand that this transition in our lives is NOT due to another pastoral call but is a response to another type of call...a call to honor the Lord in my marriage, family and to see how the Lord will use my gifts and abilities in new ways. I am also looking forward to Vicky and I finding a local church in which to participate as fellow members of the Body of Christ, praising our God, using our gifts, and contributing to the mission of Jesus just as you do. So, as many of you who are retired know, life doesn’t necessarily slow down...it just changes and presents new opportunities to celebrate the breath of life that God so lovingly grants to all of us.
Friends in Jesus, as I was in the process of making the decision on the timing of sharing this news with each of you, we started gathering information on home selling (our home will be put on the market Easter weekend). On our trip to Colorado in early February, we miraculously found a place to live (a two-bedroom condominium in Loveland, Colorado). The housing market everywhere in the western states is tight and expensive but a place opened up which we didn’t anticipate. Subsequently, we made an acceptable offer and just a few days ago closed on the purchase of that property. Loveland is close to our daughter and family in Ft. Collins, as well as close to my sisters, nieces, and nephews. Vicky will most likely be moving to Colorado in mid to late April. After a week or so trip to Colorado to help facilitate that move, I’ll return to McCall. I’m going to be able to stay at the home of some dear, decades-long friends who introduced us to the wonders and beauty of McCall when we first moved to Idaho in the early 2000s. At this point, that’s our plan.
With all my heart, I’ll close by stating again our love and our gratitude to God and to you! Please know that I am available for a conversation by phone, Zoom or in-person (while practicing good COVID health safety protocols).
In Jesus’ love,
Rev. Dr. Robin J. Dugall
Pastor – Our Savior’s @ McCall
Pastor – Shepherd of the Mountains @ Cascade
March 17th, 2021