These days I feel like one of those sidewalk prophets carrying the sign,
“The End is Near.” Ain’t it the truth! In a little more than a month, my 17-year ministry with this congregation will be over.
It feels a little unreal to imagine not being a part of this community. Debbie and I will still be living in Asheville, but after June you won’t see me here anymore. I’ll step aside to make room for an interim minister who will guide you through the next two years while you prepare for your next settled minister. Yes, we’ll bump into each other in the supermarket or elsewhere in town, and I will always be happy to greet you. But we won’t talk about what’s happening at this place.
People have told me that this practice seems strange – shutting myself off from people and an institution I have come to love. And, in a sense, it is. But I freely agree to it because I want to do my best to assure a smooth transition to my successor. And my presence would only disrupt that.
Many of you have asked about my plans, and my short answer is that at least for a little while I plan to press the pause button in my life. I’ll find things to do, but I plan to keep my commitments to a minimum. Ministry is an all-consuming calling and, like you, I need to give myself some space before I jump into the next thing.
There’s something serendipitous about you entering search at a time when there is so much change in the world. With so much in play, it gives you time and space to reflect deeply on the gift this congregation has to give to the world, what kind of leadership you need to bring it about, and what parts you are willing to play to make it happen.
As I make my way out the door, I want you to know that you have a good foundation to build on: a proud and momentous history, strong lay leadership, and many creative and engaged people involved in making ministry happen here, supported by an accomplished, devoted and compassionate staff.
Whatever sadness I feel leaving my work here, it is exceeded by a deep sense of gratitude. Ministry is life-changing work, and you have changed me in all the best ways. It has been my great joy to serve you. Know that you have my blessing to realize the best that you are, to serve each other well, and let the light of the beloved community, the beacon that guides our faith, shine within, among and beyond you, making love, peace and justice your work in the world.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister