Packing for a move has a distinct way of encouraging a person to sort out what’s valuable versus
what can be left behind. My sister-in-law recently came over to help us begin packing for our
upcoming move to Traverse City and encouraged us to dive headfirst into the most challenging
(read: cluttered) area of our house. Consequently, I found myself in that special part of the
basement with the boxes that have sat unopened since the last time we moved. Boxes with labels
like “OLD PHOTOS” or “JOAN – MEMORIES,” each offering a nostalgic account of the
various chapters of our lives.
The last time I moved was in 2015, when I was leaving behind my career to begin seminary.
Sifting through the boxes of artifacts I’d kept back then, I was reminded of the particular joys
and struggles prompted by God’s invitation to ministry.
I was perplexed when I first perceived God calling me to be a United Methodist pastor. The
prospect felt disruptive to the life I’d so carefully curated. I was a music professor with a thriving
freelance clarinet career, also serving as music director at Genesis UMC. I couldn’t make sense
of why God would ask me to abandon all of that to pursue a career for which I hardly knew if I
had the necessary skills, let alone in a denomination with significant restrictions regarding
LGBTQ+ clergy. Yet parallel to my uncertainty was a growing awareness that ministry was
becoming, to quote Frederick Buechner, “the place where [my] deep gladness and the world’s
deep hunger meet.” So, I left behind the life I knew. With hope that the church would wrestle
together with me about what it meant for God to call someone like me to ministry. And with trust
that the Holy One who had imagined this new place for me would accompany me to it.
As I pack this time around, I’m only keeping a few things from those old boxes of music stuff.
One is a concert program from my final performance at the university where I taught. The piece
was a setting for clarinet and choir of a text by Sir Henry Wotton: “O Thou Great Power in
whom I move, for whom I live, to whom I die.” It’s a good reminder that in following the One
about whom the choir sang that day I’ve known fulfillment beyond anything I could have
imagined as the clarinetist who accompanied them.
My call to follow Christ will soon be woven together with yours. I’m filled with genuine joy and
gratitude for this, even as I know it also requires each of us to attend to the tender work of
transition and letting go in the months ahead. In all of it I’m praying, as the Apostle Paul put it,
“that you will know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” With trust that the Holy One
has imagined what’s next for us and will be faithful to accompany us there.
Rick Venner says
I attended the April 26th “get to know our new pastor, Joan” event and left awed after witnessing her deeply thoughtful spiritual presence. She had a way of connecting to the over one hundred people in attendance as if it was a one on one conversation. So very excited for Central’s future. Our church is going to continue to build on doing great things for our community.
Sheri Grow says
I agree! I listened to the streaming session and was very moved. Thank you to those who attended in person.
Jay Berger says
Welcome Joan! We are thrilled to have you and Sham join Central Church.
Carol Larson says
I also attended the Q&A session Wednesday evening and was struck by your warmth and thoughtfulness each time you responded to questions (even Steve’s). And, I loved your sense of humor! I think the future of the church can only be wonderful. Welcome, welcome!
Ann Porter says
The question and answer session left me with the excitment of starting to get to know you and the peace of knowing that Central is in good hands and we will all grow together. Thanks so much for your transparancy and your honest and open heart. I look forward to your arrival and pray for a smooth transition throughout this season of change.
Kathy Tulgestke says
I am hopeful for you. I am hopeful that you and Linda can grow our church. I’ve worried about it for many years now. There are so many older members, myself and husband included. We really need more young families for us to survive. In the world of today, I don’t know where we will get them. I have six young active grandchildren and sports rule their lives. It’s just the world they live in. They have weekend travel to tournaments and never make it to church. I know there are many many young families in TC that have the same problem. I don’t know the answer and I worry… and I pray.
Diane Clark says
Joan, we are so looking forward to your ministry with us. Keep making that beautiful music of many different kinds.