Fathers, Babies and Moving Vans

Moving/Storage boxes

If you are a West Virginia United Methodist pastor who has been reassigned this year, it is moving week. Your life is in boxes and you are –  or soon will be – on the road.

The itinerancy.

It’s hard…but also exciting.

It’s an opportunity for a fresh start…but also a painful parting.

I went through such moves with my family six times by the time I graduated high school.

As I shared in an earlier post (which you can read here) I have been feeling restless and have set out on a “Summer Itinerancy” of my own – planning to worship with a different congregation each Sunday of the summer.

This past week I worshipped at First United Methodist Church in Williamstown, West Virginia. I chose this church because it was Father’s Day, my parents would be worshipping here, and I wanted to worship with my parents.

I did not grow up in this church, but the church and my family share a strong connection.

My grandfather served as pastor here in the late 40’s and early 50’s. My dad was a high school student at the time. He used to dust the pews and perform other chores at the church.

Hand on edge of worn wooden church pew.

Dad’s hand on the back of a worn wooden pew he used to dust every week more than 60 years ago.

If my grandfather had never been assigned to this church, it’s highly likely I would never have been born.

I am certain my grandparents,  my dad and my uncle missed people from their earlier churches, but it was because they itinerated to this place that my parents met, fell in love, married and started a family.

So, yeah, this church holds a prominent spot in our family narrative.

On this particular Father’s Day Sunday, we celebrated a baptism and helped the congregation say goodbye to their current pastor, who has been reassigned.

In his final worship service at this church, the pastor baptized a baby girl old enough to walk and curious enough to reach out for the water. Her mother held her hand and kept a watchful eye over the breakable bowl of water as the pastor talked about the sacrament.

“Baptism,” said the pastor, who did not appear at all concerned about the breakable bowl, “welcomes people into ongoing covenant, from generation to generation.”

The water that attracted the child’s attention was now sprinkled on her head.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Members of the church welcomed the child and promised to nurture and support her as she grows in her faith. Life being life, chances are she will eventually grow up and move away and live elsewhere – going out into the world, yet eternally connected to this moment, this place, these people. The Baptismal Covenant II - Holy Baptism for Children and Others Unable to Answer for Themselves - from United Methodist Hymnal.

Following the baptism, the congregation turned its attention to saying goodbye to the man who had served as their pastor for the past ten years. In a slide show set to music, images of earlier baptisms, weddings, mission trips, Sunday School classes, potluck suppers and the like flashed across a screen.

Their message:“Thank You”; “We love you”; “We will miss you”; “Go, light the world.”

The service ended with the congregation singing “Shalom to you.”

The itinerancy.

It’s hard…but also exciting.

It’s an opportunity for a fresh start…but also a painful parting.

The pastor is leaving – going out into the world, yet eternally connected to this moment, this place, these people.

And those other pastors and their families packing boxes and loading trucks this week?

They also are answering a call to “Go, light the world.”

They also will forever remain connected to the moments and places and people of their itinerancy.

Shalom to them.

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