April 14, 2021
Dear members of the Hills Church,
By now I trust that you have received my announcement that I will be completing my ministry at Wellesley Hills Congregational Church on Sunday, the 20th of June, and have accepted a call to ministry at Plymouth Church UCC in Shaker Heights, Ohio. As I wrote in my letter to you, I do so with a mix of excitement and sadness.
The sadness is in leaving this community that I love after seven years. In some ways, it seems that this time has gone by quickly. And then when I consider what has happened, and what we have shared together, I realize how full this time has been. Setting aside all that the church has accomplished in ministry, I think about the changes around us in these years.
During this time, the Red Sox won the World Series, again, and the Patriots added two Super Bowl wins. I was out on the street in front of the church for every Marathon, and gave high fives and hugs to some of you as you ran past. Together, we lived through the record snowfall in the winter of 2015, with ice dams and nowhere to move the snow. We have experienced the last years of the Obama Presidency, all of the Trump Presidency, and the beginning of the Biden Era.
Children who were finishing elementary school when I arrived are now finishing high school. And, of course, we have lived through this challenging and difficult season of the coronavirus pandemic.
We have shared together the joyful and mournful passages of life. Greeting parents with newborn babies on their first Sundays in church, celebrating baptisms, confirmations, graduations, and marriages. And I have visited you in the hospital, and prayed with you at the cemetery.
In my own family, since I came to the Hills Church, we have buried my last living grandparent, my stepfather and Betsy’s mother, and our great-nephew. We have also celebrated the weddings of my uncle, two of our nieces, and most recently our son. And along the way we have welcomed seven new nieces and nephews into our extended family, one of whom was baptized here in our sanctuary.
I have preached about 260 sermons, give or take. On my very first Sunday, a few days after our moving truck arrived, the scripture text was the passage in which Abraham goes out to the mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac to God, which I described as an ancient passage meant to show that the God of Israel did not receive child sacrifice, but provided a way for our lives to become living sacrifices. Here’s how I ended that sermon, back in June, 2014:
"And how do we do that?
What shape will our lives take as we offer them to God?
This story of Abraham and Isaac points the way: God will provide. Abraham got to that mountain with his son. And then, in the mysterious way of this story, God provided a Ram for the offering, and Abraham named that place 'God will provide.'
"And so here is what I propose, on my first Sunday to be with you in a shared ministry at Wellesley Hills Congregational Church:
God will gather us together in worship and community like we would gather around the fire.
God will transform our lives into living sacrifices to the grace of Christ.
God will provide a vision for our gifts.
God will provide a different story to live by.
It is a story of life."
In 2021, I am still hopeful and confident that God will provide. God will provide a vision for the gifts of the Hills Church, and I will pray for you, and hold you in my heart.
In the meantime, I treasure the time we have together between now and June 20th. This is a congregation of many gifts and deep goodness. You have amazing church members in leadership roles. You have called people to serve as clergy and in professional ministry roles who have such skill and passion. And even amid the challenges of this past year, people are serving together, praying and learning, and planning and growing.
God will provide. Live with confidence in the love of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.