MESSAGE FROM PASTOR AJ
My dear friends at First and Centenary,
As was shared in worship (and as is included in this newsletter) it was announced on Palm Sunday that Bishop Oliveto intends to appoint me as the Pastor of Congregational and Community Engagement at Trinity UMC in downtown Denver beginning July 1, 2023. This means that my last Sunday in the pulpit at both First and Centenary will be June 11, 2023, and you will be receiving a new Pastor who will begin serving both First and Centenary in July 2023.
A change of appointment is always bittersweet for me. I have loved serving both First and Centenary. You are two incredible congregations with such hearts for mission, justice, and diversity. It has truly been an honor to be in ministry with you and I am so grateful for the time that we had together.
Although our time together was short, as I look back on the past three years, I am amazed at all we have done in this short amount of time! When I arrived in SLC we were still in the throes of the Pandemic, and there was much that was different about our worship and our ministry. Yet, God was faithful to see us through, and together we have entered into a new chapter of ministry together. This new chapter is marked by an online worship service that continues to serve both our communities today, by the welcoming of new friends into our midst, by the reimagining of who God has called us to be, and by the act of reengaging in meaningful ministry. These three years have been so full of the Holy Spirit, and I give thanks for all we have done together as God’s people.
Now that our time together is coming to an end, I want you to remember that the Holy Spirit will continue to be with you and your next pastor. I know that you will continue to “dance the dance” of faith right here and now. Because the truth is, your dance of faith was going on long before I arrived, and your dance of faith will continue long after I leave. Therefore, do not loose heart, but trust that God will continue to be with you and continue to work through you! I bless you to your next chapter with your next pastor as you continue to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
As I look forward to my move to Trinity UMC, I want you to know that this opportunity for me to move to Denver and serve at Trinity UMC is a good one for me, as well as a good one for our connection. As United Methodists, we live in a connectional ecosystem where there are many different factors that go into appointment making. Church needs, conference needs, denominational needs, and even clergy needs go into appointment making. And so, my new appointment is a confluence of many different factors and does not reflect on you as congregations or about our time together. Both Centenary and First have incredible gifts to offer and are important congregations within our conference, and I know you will continue to do good ministry with your next pastor.
In addition, as is custom in the United Methodist Church, Pastors are unable to have any contact with their former congregations for one year. This is to ensure that you form a connection with your new Pastor. Practically speaking, this means I cannot come back to do any weddings, funerals, baptism, bible studies etc. I also cannot talk with you about any church business or church ministries for one year. All of that will be the privilege of your next Pastor and I know they will be there to support you in whatever you need.
With that in mind, let’s make sure we connect and see each other before I go! My final Sunday in the pulpit will be June 11th, but we will start celebrating our time together before that on May 28th with a combined outdoor worship service and picnic at Centenary UMC. Then we will continue celebrating on June 4th, with Pride Sunday and our outdoor communion service at First UMC! Then finally, we will celebrate and say goodbye on June 11th.
Again, it has been my honor to serve as your pastor. You have taught me so much and blessed my life in so many ways. I am thankful for so many things that I could not name them all but let me try to name a few. First, I am thankful for the ways you have accepted my leadership, I am thankful for the ways we have dreamed together about who and what God is calling you to be and do, I am thankful for the ways in which you have supported me in my Doctoral work, and I am thankful for the ways in the ways we have been dance partners in ministry together.
I will carry these things and many more with me as I leave this place with deep gratitude and thanks for our time together.
You will continue to be in my prayers during this time of transition to your next Pastor.
As Paul says in the letter to Philippians……. “I give thanks to God every time I remember you.” I hope you will too.
In loving gratitude,