Leaving a place you love is always difficult. As I prepare for the conclusion of my tenure as the Pastor of UKirk-UTK, it’s difficult to put into words the swirl of emotion that I feel as this great time of my life comes to a close.
I feel grateful.
I want to thank all the people who have co-labored alongside me as UKirk-UTK continued its rich tradition of helping form the faith of students at the University of Tennessee over these last four years. To the interns who helped dream of and implement programs, thank you. To the financial partners who recognized the importance of keeping the baptism promises of college students, thank you. To the church partners who sent checks, prayers, and casseroles that helped us welcome students and build a community of faith, thank you. To the Presbytery of East Tennessee that has helped us to navigate the turbulent financial waters and whose partnership has helped us (in many ways) calm these storms, thank you. To the board members who gave time, energy, and talent to help UKirk grow and flourish, thank you. To the residents who helped create and maintain a “home away from home” for so many, thank you. To Jaclyn, a friend and colleague whose partnership and support made very few of my days at UKirk feel like work, thank you. To the students who trusted me enough to share their honest selves and explore the love of God with me as their pastor, thank you. In countless ways to these countless people, thank you.
What an honor it has been to pastor and care for the students of UKirk over these years. As a parent myself, I understand the enormous privilege and responsibility it is to care for young people. I am so grateful to have had that honor and privilege.
I feel sad.
I would be dishonest if I didn’t acknowledge how sad it is to leave UKirk. I became ordained to this position. I stayed up late at night worrying about UKirk’s financial health and future. I celebrated UKirk’s growth and vibrancy. I became a parent while at UKirk and was supported by this community. I helped many discern the voice of God calling them to be a pastor at UKirk. I dreamed of new programs and saw them come to life. I preached fearless sermons and got the opportunity to help others recognize the indwelling of God within themselves and others. UKirk is healthy, vibrant, and beautiful and it is tremendously sad to leave.
I feel excited.
When I unpacked my office in the Fall of 2015, I could not have imagined the way our prayers, dreams, and efforts would take root and create what I leave as I repack the office now. UKirk has changed so much and transformed so many lives. I am excited about the ways God will continue to use this ministry, as God has in the past, to continue to grow and change to meet the emerging needs of student at UT. I am grateful to have been part of a time of exciting growth and change and will be excited to see UKirk grow and change in new ways under someone else’s leadership and direction.
I feel love.
In John 13:34, Jesus relays a new commandment to his disciples and to us, “love one another as I have loved you.” This commandment from Jesus upon his own preparation for the end of his time on earth has long been one of my anchor verses. This verse, however, has really taken on new meanings to me as I prepare for my own vocational exit from UKirk. The important “new commandment” can be summarized by saying “when I am no longer here, love who and what I have loved.” I can imagine that this was important to relay before he was no longer with those he loved, not only to help continue on his ministry but for his own sense of peace. I understand why Jesus would want the last commandment he said to be “love as I have loved.” When your heart is so full of love for your people, it’s important that the love take root and continue to flourish. This love for and of God’s people gave rise to the Church, a body that still loves who and what Jesus loves.
I say goodbye.
Like many others, I am full of love for UKirk. I love and cherish the relationships I have with the students, staff, board members, and church partners. I love what UKirk has the responsibility and capacity to do, to help students love who and what Jesus loves (themselves, their neighbors, and our fragile planet). As I exit, full of love, I hope that you have been captivated to love what I love, too. I hope you will continue to love, support, and pray for this incredible ministry that I have loved and will continue to love.
In my heart swirls gratitude, sadness, excitement, and love. As my time at UKirk concludes, I leave you with these words that my time in ministry at UKirk formed within myself. There’s no greater joy than discovering the image of God in one’s self. There’s no greater adventure than discovering and helping others to discover that same sacredness within themselves. God calls each of us to this joyful adventure together.
Go in peace, beloved.