The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, a personage who had two faces: one looking back and one looking forward. It is a good name for the first month of the new year – looking back at the year that has just passed and looking ahead to the new one. It has special meaning in 2017 for those of us at Oakhurst. We are turning a big page of our history as Ms. Joann Price (director of our Sanctuary Mass Choir) and I both retire at about the same time. Ms. Price’s last Sunday here was Christmas Day, and my last day is January 14. I’ll let Ms. Price speak for herself, but I can say that for me and Caroline and David and Susan, it has been a great run!
We arrived here on February 15, 1983, and the Presbytery had indicated that we had one or two years to turn the church around – if there were not significant signs of life coming forth by 1985, their funding of Oakhurst Presbyterian would come to an end. We jumped in with both feet, and thanks to God’s Spirit and the hard work of our members, it worked! We continued to receive Presbytery funding through 2006, when we requested that it be discontinued because our budget and membership had grown so much. We have been many places – featured in Time magazine, CNN News, NPR (twice), NBC News, Christian Science Monitor, CBS Radio, and many other places. We have been featured in many books and magazines, and in 2001, we were named one of 300 Excellent Protestant Congregations in the country by a Lilly-based study.
It has been quite a journey! During my sabbatical in the summer of 2015, I decided to retire at age 70 because I was longing to do more writing and to have less meetings. As I indicated in the interview in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I will miss the preaching and the pastoring but not the night meetings. And, actually what I will miss the most is the inspiration and challenge and deepening of my faith that you have provided for over these almost 34 years. I have been greatly gifted by you, and I will always be in your debt.
Enough about that face of January – looking back to the past – and now, on to the other face, the future. The Session has hired the Rev. Leigh Campbell-Taylor as the interim pastor to serve while the Pastor Nominating Committee seeks the person whom God is calling to be your next pastor. Please be keeping them in your thoughts and prayers as they lead you through this next phase of your ministry. The Momentum Team will be presenting some ideas for new steps to take as you bridge from the past to the future. So, find your place in these new steps and give all that you can to ensure that the next 34 years are just as exciting and deepening as these last 34 have been.
As for me, I’m off to rest for awhile – thanks so much for the WONDERFUL Travel Fund!!!! Presbytery will not allow me to return for a year, so I won’t be in worship with you, which I will dearly miss. But, we remain friends, and we can do lunch/coffee/tea sometime – just no church talk! Thank you so much for all that you have shared with me and Caroline and our family – the dancing, the tears, the hugs, the prayers, the steps for justice, the surprises, the growth pains, the silliness, the challenges – I will miss the community of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, but it is time for me to go and for you to take the next steps. Let us keep one another in our thoughts and prayers in this time of transition and change. In these perilous political times, let us keep our eyes on the prize: Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly.