The sky was gray, the harbor calm as a puppy sleeping in a big pillow. The herons behind me not so much, but still, the gray peace of the scene there on Park St. in St. Petersburg was awesome. I walked out on a dock, and there, off to the South, stood these two towers. They are apartment towers, a retirement place actually, a place my grandmother lived for a couple of years, a place we frequented during that time. I had been smiling, driving down this brick road that I rattled my teeth over the years, and having stopped and seeing those towers, a song came to mind.
"Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul…" I won’t go into the story of that song written by JBF Wright, his was a sad and hard story, mine really isn’t. But the memories came all the same. And in a sense, because they include people now gone on to glory, those memories grow fonder as "the sacred past unfolds."
I drove over to St. Pete to have a ‘passing of the baton’ Sunday with the pastors who will be my predecessors at First St. Pete. It was a great service, one that should happen more often I think, particularly with churches who have had their pastor for a while. I am now headed back to Miami for the last days of my sojourn, and my last Sunday in the District. I am looking forward to a ground breaking with South Dade Haitian Mission as the last thing I do as a DS in this great district.
Precious memories, I carry them with me as I leave. Laughing with congregations, dreaming dreams with congregations, watching new ministries unfold like the Hispanic Academy and JFON. Precious memories. Watching two boys grow up and move out, watching the rise, and now decline of the Miami Heat, riding bikes and motorcycles and jet skis with colleagues and friends, it wasn’t all work either!
Experiencing the healing hand of God, the memories are all precious. "As I ponder, hope grows fonder," and my sense of gratitude overflows.
I am grateful for every Christian that attends worship in our Methodist churches. You all are precious, and in this diverse and demanding world, worshiping with you was a privilege. I am grateful for every SPRC member, people who often saw the ugly back side of the church, and remained faithful all the same. I am grateful to the pastors who labor in a tough vineyard and remain faithful. Sometimes it feels like we are the pastors of First Methodist of Sodom and Gomorrah, but you remain steadfast. I am grateful to the many who wrote cards and knitted prayer shawls and embroidered blankets for me in those darkest hours of my diagnosis. And many of you contributed financially to a most generous farewell gift, some identifying yourselves, most not – to all my sincere thanks.
Tomorrow (not literally) there will be another DS. Tomorrow there will be other pastors and parishioners. But today, you all have contributed to the "precious sacred scenes" that make for the most precious memories for me.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1: 3-6