Words from Pastor Hannah on the 10th anniversary of her installation at WCUC.
When I was searching for a new call in 2009, I had lots of wonderful education, mentoring, and support; two years of ordained ministry experience; and a heart hungry to take on God’s work in a new setting. West Concord Union Church was the first congregation to catch my attention, and I hope you know that you have had my heart from the beginning.
This congregation has an extraordinary story. It was founded by reformatory guards and their spouses, on what was then the “wrong” side of town. It was built on the extraordinary generosity of folks who didn’t have a whole lot of money, but who did have a determination to serve those who society discounts. In time, this fundamental identity found a new expression as you recognized as beloved neighbors and fellow church members those of all abilities. The church I first encountered ten years ago was marked by remarkable inclusion, warm friendliness, a scrappy can-do attitude, extraordinary music, and stalwart leaders with so many gifts.
I have always felt it to be a part of my call that God planned to change me through the work of ministry; and indeed, this work is a refining fire, dangerous to the ego. I thank you for putting up with me: a pastor who arrived a good 50 years younger than some of you, and with limited experience offering care, or leading change (both delicate and difficult tasks). Ten years later, I am older, with more experience. Still, as I often say, all pastors would benefit from having an extraordinarily broad number of gifts and areas of expertise, and each one of us only has some of them. I am limited, in what I can offer. I have made a great many mistakes, in what I have done, and what I have failed to do, in my work alongside you. I ask for your forgiveness, and welcome your honest conversation; long-term relationships only work if you talk it out. I will continue to work on seeking out and supporting all of your gifts; for (as Wendy says) it is what we can do, all together, that really matters. I can’t tell you how often I have learned from your example, and how deeply I have appreciated your kindness and your dedication to our shared ministry. It has been a profound privilege to be part of precious moments in your lives, and in our life together, over the last ten years.
If you look at the list of pastors in the back hallway, most of the recent folks have not stayed more than 8, 9, or 10 years. So, it has occurred to me to wonder if you have been expecting me to leave. I have been trying to listen hard to the needs of this congregation, and to the call of God. So far, it feels like we are still growing well together, exploring new opportunities to serve all ages and abilities; to worship in ways that honor the past, the present, and dreams of the future; and to dig deeper into loving God and one another. I feel incredibly blessed to be still traveling with you, continuing to grow together in faith and service.
Thank you so much for the great honor of serving as your pastor. I look forward to whatever God has in mind for us next.