In the Blink of an Eye

by | Nov 1, 2021 | Reflections Blog

Photo by Deborah Mayhew

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:39-40)

I feel a little like Philip. Something sudden and unexpected, but potentially of God’s Spirit, has happened. And it will take me far from here.

On Tuesday, October 26, I was elected to serve as the next executive leader of the Synod of the Trinity—a region covering all of Pennsylvania, most of West Virginia, and a sliver of eastern Ohio. In the blink of an eye, after over eight years with you, I have become a short-timer in the Presbytery.

I hadn’t expected this to happen. For nearly seven years, whenever I was approached to apply for a position, my answer (both internally and externally) had always been, “My work in Los Ranchos isn’t done yet.”

But last year I felt a loosening. It wasn’t a powerful drive to leave. I just found myself open to the life and work of the wider church.

That’s how the Synod of the Trinity came up. I noticed them and put out a feeler. They invited me to interview. The further the conversations went, the more intrigued I became.

And here we are. I begin work on January 1, and they want me living within the bounds by February 1. Assuming that Los Ranchos votes on November 18 to accept my resignation, my work will end with you on December 31.

I want to end well. I hope to wrap things up with one last presbytery meeting and then leave things well-organized for whoever comes next. Karen will join me when the repairs from our house fire are complete and her call at Downey has concluded.

Photo by Erin Dunigan

It’s hard to think of leaving Los Ranchos. I have grown very attached to many of you these past eight years. I will miss you.

But I’m also excited. As Karen has said, “We’re on our next great adventure”—just like we were when we came to you. I look forward to discovering how God’s next thing for our lives takes shape.

Even more, when I think about what Trinity has called me to do, I see a convergence like the one that brought me to you. All sorts of ministry experiences over the last twenty-five-plus years have led to this, in the same way that I observed when I came to Los Ranchos. I take hope in the words of the search chair when he said, “You have the best chance of leading us through the kind of transformation we want to have.”

I recognize that the departure of someone in such a central role is a destabilizing event for the presbytery. But that makes it an opportunity, not just a danger. The Strategic Task Group is doing outstanding work that will lead the Presbytery into its next era. My absence will grant room for even more exploration when the STG completes its work and hands it back to the Council.

And in the meantime, Los Ranchos is in good stead. The staff team is already making concrete plans to address the gaps when I go. The Staff Relations Committee is reviewing my job description and starting to consider next steps. Council will sort out the key questions to ask and answer in the upcoming months. Your leaders, paid and volunteer, are faithful.

God is faithful too. Philip may have wondered what happened to the Ethiopian eunuch after he left. He had to trust that God would look after him. But by God’s gracious activity, the eunuch became part of God’s eternal story—even, tradition teaches us, to the formation of the Ethiopian church.

So will I trust that God will look after you as well. Whatever opportunities my departure creates in Los Ranchos, I will pray that God will raise up people who have the good of the presbytery at heart. I will pray that a yet more beautiful creation will emerge in your midst.

With much love—