Dear Calvary Family,
I write to you as I’m making my way to New York City to preach this weekend at The Riverside Church. You have been in my thoughts and heart so often over the last several weeks as so much change has come suddenly to all our lives. And while I am not yet able to speak to you in person, I do have a few thoughts I’d like to send your way.
In many ways, that April 27 Sunday when I announced after worship that I am the final candidate for the Senior Minister position at The Riverside Church seems like a lifetime ago. At the time none of us could have anticipated what an intense and challenging period of transition was beginning, an unexpected process of thinking about the future in ways none of us (including me, it turns out) could really have anticipated.
And, in the middle of all of this change in our community, life continues with all its joys and sorrows.
As many of you know, my younger brother John died suddenly and unexpectedly in Hawaii last week. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii to be with him before he died and share that time with my family. In all the current confluence of uncertainty, I know I’ve not processed the grief of this loss. But I do know that in these days I have felt very strongly your love and presence, doing what you do so very well: care for each other. Thank you for your many expressions of love and support for me and for my whole family.
Calvary Baptist Church is a place where each of us commits to bring our whole selves into our communal life together. Sometimes I wonder if you all realize how rare and miraculous this quality of our community is.
I think that’s why it can seem so difficult when major events—whether new life and new beginnings or painful loss and sudden goodbyes—necessarily pull us away from the very people with whom we most want to share them. And yet, it is precisely the love and support we show when we are together that holds us when we are apart. Knowing I have had such a great cloud of witnesses encircling me has sustained me during this time of discernment for the future and grief in my family.
These last several weeks we’ve all been living in a strange, in-between time, wondering about what will come next but not able to see quite clearly yet. If these last several weeks have taught us anything, it is that none of us can know what the future will hold – no matter how carefully we may plan. True to form, you have stepped up to the challenge of a totally unfamiliar situation and lived as you consistently do: with faith in the God who calls us together, and with love, patience, and care for each other during a tenuous time.
Whatever lies before us, I feel sure that we will move toward it together with courage and the same commitment that has made Calvary the wonderful, healthy, vibrant community you are.
I’m so looking forward to being back with you all next week, to seeing your faces and being in your presence. In the meantime, know I’m sending you all my love and my deep, deep gratitude for all the love you have offered me—these past weeks and in all our years of life together. And I recall again the words of Dag Hammarskjöld: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”