I type this letter through tears, but need to share with you that after 14 years serving as pastor of YVPC, and weeks of wrestling in prayer, crying, and listening to God’s direction, I have discerned that I will take a new pastoral call serving First Presbyterian Church of Oakland. This was not a move that I in any way anticipated or was looking for, especially in this difficult year and the uncertainty that we are living through, but God has been clear to me and others that this is a faithful move for our family and for YVPC.
I am deeply, deeply thankful for these last fourteen years as your pastor. The experience of all of you trusting me as a brand-new pastor, and then walking alongside me through the process of becoming the pastor I am today has been — and continues to be — an amazing gift to my family and me. You were gracious and loving as I learned and grew in preaching, leading, and pastoring. Thank you for trusting me with your faith journeys, and sharing your struggles and celebrations with me. I am deeply thankful for the space and time to be creative and vulnerable and to learn together to more faithfully live into God’s kingdom.
The Ygnacio Valley church family has also been a sacred space for Susannah, Monrovia and Ruby. It is the only church community that our girls know. I remember being nervous both of the Sunday mornings when we shared that Susannah was pregnant with Monrovia and Ruby. From the days of Monrovia swaddled like a burrito on the pew to Ruby crawling around in the back of the church to more recent seasons where they lit candles during Prayers of the People or whispered loudly in the back of the sanctuary, you have loved them so well. Thank you for the joy and support you have showered on all of us. Thank you for being extra grandparents, uncles and aunts to our little ones – sneaking them extra cookies, knitting them blankets, slipping them little presents, offering to help, sharing wisdom along the way, loving each of them individually and giving room for them to grow. Thank you for the lack of expectations you had for Susannah and the girls to participate in the church community, allowing them to join in when and where they were ready to. You gave us support through hard times too, like when we found out Monrovia was deaf or when Susannah’s parents divorced. You have taught us and our girls what a church community should be – a place of love and support and worship and donuts and authentic wrestling with how to live faithfully in this world.
I am impressed by the spiritual growth we have experienced during these years. So many of you have taken the courageous step to preach and share in leading others. We learned through the study of prayer and expanded our imagination in how we practice prayer, whether alone or together, in our own homes or around a labyrinth. We experimented with creative movement in worship, responding to sermons, confessing with rocks, using prayer stations, and giving offerings of resources, canned foods, copy paper, and warm socks. We embraced the season of Lent, used salt and water to lament, and entered the Good Friday story through experiential stations of the cross.
There are so many examples of God’s love and care shown through our community. We grew closer to one another through meals, game and karaoke nights, and neighborhood walks together. We laughed and passed food across the table to friends and neighbors at the annual Crab Feed. We took steps of honesty and vulnerability in sharing our struggles in following God and allowed others to support us along the way. We overwhelmed nurses in hospitals and care homes with the number of members who went to visit. We gathered together as witnesses to the resurrection and grieved the losses of so many in our YVPC family. Our fall church retreats to Zephyr Point have been times of deep relationship-building where we learn and laugh and grow together. And now, during this pandemic, we continue our web of support through Zoom Bible Studies and worship services, phone calls, letters and porch gifts.
We also grew together as we sought new ways of loving our neighbors in service and advocacy. We began a monthly homeless feeding and later laundromat ministry to serve our unhoused neighbors. We formed an accompaniment team to assist a Guatemalan refugee and her daughter in forming a new life. We have supported Superkidz families and workers and others through holiday gifts and basic necessities. We’ve hosted a space for faith-rooted community organizing work to address the root causes of pain and brokenness within our community. We’ve assisted a Spanish speaking church community and partnered with them to assist members affected by COVID-19. We studied and reflected on our lives and privileges in order to address systemic racial injustice in our lives, the church, and society. We wrestled with local and statewide ballot measures to discern what God wants for our community.
I give thanks for all of these beautiful things God has done in our lives while I have had the honor of serving as your pastor. As God has faithfully guided and sustained us during many seasons these last fourteen years, God will continue to provide for YVPC in the season ahead.
I will be working with the session and Presbytery to create a plan for this time of pastoral transition following my departure. Typically an intern pastor can help with pastoral care, worship leadership, and guidance as a church searches for a new permanent pastor. I will continue to preach and lead worship until my last Sunday, Nov. 8th. However you are feeling, I will continue as your pastor during these next 8 weeks, please don’t hesitate to reach out in order to process this news and future steps of YVPC with me. We can talk by phone or set up an outside visit.
Grace and Peace,