Dear Washington Plaza Church family-
I needed to write you one more letter. I love you. I don't just say that lightly. I really do love you.
It has become abundantly clear to me again this week that goodbyes are always hard. But they're especially hard when you're parting as we are, having loved each other well for several years now. I've believed in you (and still do) from the first moment I met your pastoral search committee in that office in Reston Interfaith. I knew that if the rest of the church was as awesome as the search comittee then we were going to have a lot of fun. And, fun we've had! Over these years, I have always wanted to brag about you to my friends-- telling them that in Washington Plaza I found the church I dreamed to be a part of as pastor in seminary.
I love how you blessed me over four years ago now when you saw a 28 year old female with no solo pastoring experience and called me with an unanimous vote to be your preacher on the plaza. I love that you saw in me what I most felt true about myself-- that I was a pastor and that God had made me for a time to be your pastor. I love how you've followed my lead, taken chances with me to try new things and asked really good questions when we've faced crucial decisions together. I love how you've never told me "no" to my growing passion for writing and ministering to folks outside the church. It is you, dear Washington Plaza, who has given me a chance to hear my own voice clearly-- the voice I believe will be what I need most in the chapter that lies ahead of me. I have you to thank for gracing me with this great gift!
I love how kindly you have welcomed me in your community, just as I was (church baggage and all) and most especially I love how you've welcomed Kevin. It's a hard road being married to a pastor, but just as you help me to grow up over the past several years, you've done the same for Kevin. You've given him opportunities to serve in the kitchen and cook for a crowd (his favorite!). You've ordained him as a deacon-- a milestone in his own journey. You've given him the spiritual community he needed to be at the point in his life to say "Yes!" to God's ministry for him at Feed The Children this year. You've loved him and cheered him on as much as you have me-- and I know you'll continue to do this in all that lies ahead for us.
I love how you welcome those in whom other churches simply would not. You welcome so lovingly folks who may not come to church dressed just so. You welcome folks who call themselves gay and Christian-- who just need to know that God loves them too. You welcome those who have been hurt by the church and just need to have a place to come and take deep breaths for awhile. You welcome those who have deep burdens on their hearts who just need a place in corporate worship to unload them in prayer. You welcome those who aren't sure they believe in Jesus-- but really want to-- and a safe place to ask their questions as they figure it all out. You welcome those who often take more than they give without grumbling or complaining about doing more of your share of the work.
I love how I've seen Jesus in you:
Times when you've showed up with hymnbooks at bedsides singing to those who are dying.
Times when you've gone with me to take communion to shut-ins who could no longer come to church.
Times when you've built community with each other outside of the confines of the building-- over glasses of wine, during breakfast meetings, at walks for the homeless in Reston, or in one another's homes.
Times when you've given your money or time to help the homeless or nearly homeless who show up at our doorsteps and are in need of a meal or a conversation.
Times when you've believed in second chances for those who have hurt you or those who have hurt our church.
Times when you've said to me, "My faith is growing to be more important to me all the time."
Times when you've shown up at a week night Bible study with eagerness to learn and listen to each other.
Times when you never said anything mean about my wet hair on Sunday mornings or continual search for my lost keys around the church or even why there were spelling errors in the bulletin.
I will forever cherish this time in my life as the time when I was YOUR pastor. Know that I'm cheering you on in all that lies ahead and will forever think of you with gratitude for how you've altered the direction of my life and Kevin's life too in so many lovely ways. I know you'll be just as good to the next person who leads you too. And, they'll be a lucky pastor just as I have been for these four years.
I love you!