My job is changing.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote this post. It explains how I ended up falling in love with a handful of people in a ‘foreign’ community – across the river, further west.
In the next several weeks, my time as the leader of that community of faith will come to an end. I’ll hand off that mantle of leadership to a friend and coworker who, I daresay, finds himself just as awestruck as I was, as he anticipates his future as the Campus Pastor.
I have been doubling up for this year and a half; trying my best to maintain the job I was initially hired to do (creative stuff, music stuff, service planning stuff), while learning to be a campus pastor.
And learning to be loved.
We had a leaders’ meeting on Sunday after the services; the last one I’ll preside over as the Campus Pastor. We did our business, with lively discussion and optimism. I wrapped up the meeting and got ready to leave; but my successor said, Wait – sit down. One more thing…
I sat, and he looked around and said You all got my email and you know that we’re all going to take a minute to thank Beth for serving here…
Smart guy, my friend and successor. He has picked up on the fact that I’m a words girl, and he gave me a great gift that I’ll not soon forget.
These people, these rural, country folk who are smart and committed and talented and wise; these folks who have shown me, in 18 months, the true meaning of community and the absolute joy of seeing change in people who have given up and been given up on – my friends and brothers and sisters spoke words to me that were as life-giving as any I have received. I was overwhelmed.
I kept telling myself, Be present, be here, just be. I tried to just listen, to look in their eyes as they spoke, and to be in the moment.
It wasn’t long, it wasn’t much, but it was enough. And the truest, deepest part of it all was when a woman I’ve known for a decade said I remember you from the beginning, when you first came. You’ve really grown.
I’m not sure anybody ever thought I could really be a pastor in the truest sense of the word. I know that I wasn’t sure myself. But somehow, I grew into exactly the kind of pastor that suits the quirky nature of my soul. These past 18-months were undoubtedly more about refining my soul than anything I might have had to offer as a leader.
You’ve really grown.
I was scared to death when I said Yes to this role. I felt, in some ways, like they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get someone in this spot. I never felt worthy or qualified; truth be told, I wasn’t.
But I was willing. And darned if just showing up didn’t set something in motion that has left me closer to exactly who I’m supposed to be at this stage of the game.
I am thankful, beyond thankful, for the people who looked at me and said We think you can do this. The ones who said We’ve got your back; we’re with you. The ones who looked me straight in the eye and said We miss Chauncey, but we’ll stick around.
Mostly, though, I am thankful for the people who walked through the doors of The Little Campus That Could and trusted us with their joys and their sorrows, their burdens and their blessings. I have met the most amazing people; men and women and children willing to share their journeys and look for meaning and seek God and welcome others to walk beside them. I have stood before a man who said No other church would have me; but this one did. I feel like I have family here. I have heard honest stories of struggle and pain, addiction and shame. I have seen men and women in the latter season of life come alive with the joy they find in a relationship with their Creator. I have seen people tell the truth about who they are and keep showing up.
I have been so unbelievably, overwhelming blessed and honored. And, yes, Alana; I’ve really grown, thanks to you and about 150 other men and women who call Riverside ‘home’. It couldn’t have happened any other way.
Grace, lived out, undeniably real. I’m tracing the trajectory tonight with gratitude. And ready for the next season.
Except I don’t know what my ‘Church Day’ photos will look like come September. It’s just not as pretty around here; I guess I’ll just have to start looking a little harder.