“Pastor’s New Year”

The past few days have been really interesting for me, as I’ve watched dozens of clergy colleagues and friends post on social media about the first day in a new appointment. As it turns out, 2019 has been a big year for moves in the North Texas Conference, and yesterday, July 1, was what I like to call Pastor’s New Year.

Of course, we are experiencing that here at First UMC with the departure of Kathy “Kake” Nations as she takes on a new role, serving as a connection to the community of Denton for the worshiping community at FUMC called Open. (FYI: I’ve started using both Kathy’s given and called names recently, since she’s known by most people as Kake, rather than Kathy, as we’ve called her here in Gainesville.) As you know, Kathy has done a remarkable job helping us create stronger, more systematic connections with our own community and I’m glad that she will be able to help another congregation do that same work. Technically, Kathy isn’t yet appointed at FUMC Denton, even though she will relate directly to the church. She’s currently appointed to what’s called Transitional Leave as she, the congregation, and her new District Superintendent work out the details of her appointment there.

What you may not know, even if you’re familiar with the way that Methodist pastors move from time to time at the direction of the Bishop and Cabinet, is that it’s a new year for me, too—and for every other clergy person in the Conference who’s serving under appointment. Just this weekend, I had a conversation with a guest from another UM church who’s been a Methodist for a very long time. He asked me what the average appointment in the UMC is and he speculated that it might be about seven years. I told him that, although pastors are typically staying in one place longer than they used to, we are all appointed one year at a time!

I shared with the congregation on June 30, during our Unified Worship for fifth Sunday, that on that very day I was completing my 3rd year at Gainesville, my 17th year as a pastor-in-charge and full-time preacher and my 24th year in full-time ministry. Twenty of those 24 years have been literally one year at a time.

As we continue to work though this extraordinary time of change and transition at FUMC Gainesville, I pray that all of us will engage in the work of ministry together. In spite of the considerable challenges we face, the fact is that there’s a great deal of incredible ministry happening in and through our church.

For my part, I’m happy to be say that I’ll be taking on some of what Pastor Kathy has been doing, as I become the staff member whose responsibility it is to relate to and foster the work of STAR (Second Time Around Resale) and continue to develop our connections with many of the community organizations that Kathy helped create. I am looking forward to leading some continuing spiritual life ministries in our community, using STAR as a base of operations, as part of our effort to create relationships with those in our community who don’t have a church to call home.

As I begin my 25th year in pastoral ministry, I celebrate this Pastor’s New Year!

Grace and peace, Pastor John