Members and friends of Bethany Christian Church, here we are: my last Sunday is fast approaching and this is my last Tower Notes article as your pastor. The years have sped by all too quickly. As I told the Congregation last April when I announced my retirement, I was afraid that if I did not set a date to retire, I would find myself preaching here into my 80’s. And I want to have time for some other things and some other adventures with Debbie while I still have my health, my mobility, and my wits about me.
And my retirement is good for Bethany too. It is good for the church to go through the adventure of the pastoral search process --- discussing and realizing who you are as a church, where you want to go, and how you can get there. Change is loss, but change is also opportunity --- opportunity for life and love and laughter in ways yet undreamt of.
When I walked through the front doors of Bethany in August 1987, I did not expect to be walking out thirty-four years later! I hope it goes without saying that I have greatly enjoyed my thirty-four years here at Bethany. Looking back, in some ways I suppose I have been like the character in The Man Who Came to Dinner, the 1939 Broadway play by George Kauffman and Moss Hart. You might recall that the man who came to dinner slips on ice in front of his host’s house and becomes a houseguest for over a month. Then, when he is finally departing, the man slips on the ice yet again and is brought back inside. Well, you get the idea. I have sometimes felt like the guest who never leaves!
But I do want to thank you, the members and friends of Bethany. I thank you for the warm reception and affirmation that you have given me over the years. I thank you for taking such good care of my family, for helping to raise my kids and giving them values to pass on to their children.
I thank you for listening to my sermons week after week, and for remarking on them whenever I said something remarkable. After doing the math, think I have preached over 1500 sermons at Bethany since 1987, and for the most part, writing the sermons and preaching them has been more joy than chore.
I also want to thank everyone who has come to church, everyone who has been or is a Church Officer, everyone who has volunteered for any of the church boards and committees. I thank everyone who has chaired or is chairing a church board or committee, anyone who has had a question, a comment, a suggestion or a difference of opinion.
I thank you for your participation in Bible studies, special educational events, and the various discussions we’ve had over the years. Your interest and involvement have been most gratifying. I thank you for singing in the Choir, and I thank you for working in the kitchen. I thank you for making Yard Sales and Bazaars such wonderful experiences. I thank my staff for their devotion to the church, and I thank all the ministers of Bethany who have preceded me; I have stood on their shoulders.
And finally, I want to thank you, Bethany members and friends, for sharing your lives with me, sharing your lives with me in the context of our Christian faith: sharing births, dedications, baptisms, graduations, marriages, sicknesses, disabilities, deaths, funerals and memorial services.
Your life sharing has been a privilege for me, a highlight of my ministry among you that I will always cherish. For as the old song goes, “I am the Church. You are the Church. Yes, we’re the Church together. All of God’s people, all around the world, yes, we’re the Church together.”
You will forever be held in my thoughts and prayers. God be with you and bless you always.
Your Devoted Servant in Jesus Christ,
~ Dr. Bob