Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
BITTERSWEET. When Julia, James and I first came here, 10 years ago, that word referred to a very rich, very dark chocolate made by Philadelphia Candies. My father enjoyed eating it like a regular candy bar (even though it’s meant to be used in cooking). I have never acquired a taste for it, but I must admit that I now prefer my hot chocolate to be made with dark chocolate.
Today, though, BITTERSWEET has a different meaning for us.
In terms of sweetness, the Holy Spirit has made it clear that He believes Julia and I are still up for new opportunities and challenges in ministry. On Sunday, June 18, the people of Hawker United Church of Christ in southwest Ohio called me to become their next pastor. I will begin my ministry there on October 1st. Julia will look for a new opportunity for ministry after we move. The events of this weekend were a vibrant reminder for us of the text we celebrated a decade ago when I became your pastor: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
The bitter taste comes from the fact that we have grown to love you very much, and we will regret having to leave you and this community. During the past 10 years, we – as Christ’s church – have experienced many joys, accomplished a great deal in terms of advancing the Kingdom of God here in the Shenango Valley, and tackled many difficulties together in faith. We have drawn close to one another – I genuinely think of you as my family – and we have drawn closer to God. Sure, we’ve made some mistakes along the way, but “all things work together for good for those who love God …” (Romans 8:28). That will continue to be true, of course, even after we part company.
But, to paraphrase Saint Paul’s words in 2nd Timothy 4:6, the time of my departure has NOT yet come! We still have 3 months to be with our God in praise and prayer, to celebrate God’s many blessings, to comfort and support one another in the tough times, to reach out with good news (the Gospel) to our community, and to “work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Know that I am deeply grateful to God for each and every one of you, and for the time we have spent together and will spend together.
Yours in Christ,
David J. Williamson Pastor