This Sunday I shared with my beloved congregation that I had accepted the call to be the pastor of a presbyterian church in Redmond, WA, also named Redeemer.
My dad grew up on a farm about three miles from Redmond. The fifty acre farm he grew up on is now part of the Microsoft complex.
Dad went thru Redmond Elementary (grades 1-6) and Jr. High School (grades 7-9), and then attended Lake Washington High School for the 10th and 11th grade. He remembers walking the seven miles home from school after baseball practice in Kirkland. He remembers his Dad taking him fishing on Lake Sammamish.
They would dock on the west side of the lake, then row to the east side to fish. Dad shot his first duck on Lake Sammamish and he remembers a annual bicycle race around the lake, and how little hydroplanes used to race up the curvy Sammamish slough.
So in a way, I am coming home, back to my roots. My aunt Joann and cousin Beckie live in Kirkland, just down the road from Redmond. When I visited them in January I took this picture from their condo and admired their marvelous collection of my dad’s artwork.
At the same time we’re leaving home. Indy has become home to us.
It hurts so bad to say goodbye to our spiritual family here, to our dear friends in the city and in the Indianapolis Public Schools.
Here is a letter that I wrote to my Redeemer Indy family that shares more of the story.
Dear Redeemer Spiritual Family,
As I write this letter my eyes overflow with tears, tears that flow from my heart that loves you deeply. Over the past 13 years I have never wavered in my commitment to you, to the oaths I took to be your shepherd, nor doubted my call to be your pastor. By God’s grace our lives have been interwoven in community and in service to the city we love. And I have been powerfully shaped by the impact of your lives on mine.
In this letter I want to share with you about the tectonic plates that have shifted in my life. I find myself surprised, and incredibly sad, to share the news with you that over the last couple of weeks God has been moving, changing and shaping my call in ways I find hard to understand. In short, I have accepted a call to be pastor of Redeemer Church, Redmond, WA. I am convinced this is God’s calling. I also want to encourage you on a path to process this. Finally, I want to lay out a timetable for our family’s move.
Tectonic Plates and God’s Calling
In February 2002, when I accepted the call to be pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian church, Jenny and I, and our family were clear that God was calling us to Redeemer and Indianapolis, to put our shoulder to the plow with our brothers and sisters in Indy. Even though our families live on the west coast, we burned our bridges. We had no plan to return, and we assumed that we would live the rest of our lives and die in Indy. From the beginning, this put our ministry on the edge; we were going for it, we were all in.
And from the time I accepted the call to Redeemer Indy I never looked up from the plow. There hasn’t been a day that I did not find great joy in my work of sharing the gospel of God’s grace, raising up leaders, forming a community of the gospel, and participating in the suffering and healing of our city. Serving as the lead pastor at Redeemer has been one of the greatest honors and joys of my life. It has been made sweeter to serve alongside the other leaders shoulder to shoulder, my brothers and sisters, who have walked with me, worked alongside of me, borne with my brokenness, and rejoiced in my strengths.
Then on January 8thof this year, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This rocked my world. Immediately I thought “I might need to get close to Mom and Dad so that I can help them in their hour of need.” That same day I called my brother Jed, who many of you know is a Staff Leader with Young Life at Arsenal Tech. He said to me, “Jay, I have had just the opposite thought: that mom has prayed for me to be settled in my calling, and I believe my calling is here with the kids at Tech. I know the right thing for me is to be here in Indy, here at Tech.”
For me, my mom’s diagnosis was the first time that I lifted up my eyes from the plow. The first time that I even considered being open to another call that God might have for me.
In December of 2014, I learned that my mentor in Seattle, Rev. Michael Kelly, was filling the pulpit of a church in Redmond, WA, also called Redeemer, whose pastor had taken another call. At the time I didn’t think anything of it.
After my mom’s diagnosis, it struck me that this might be a potential pastoral position that would be close to my parents (1 ½ hours). But I didn’t follow up with it. In April, I received an e-mail from another pastor from Florida. In it, among other things, he mentioned the pastoral opening in Seattle. I thought to myself, I at least need to look into this. So I called the chair of the pulpit committee and found out that there was just one more week in which they were taking applications. I quickly put my paperwork together and sent it in. At the end of April I was told that the search committee wanted to interview me via skype. A week or so after that interview, I was informed that I was their top candidate and arrangements were made for Jenny and I to visit. On June 18th – 22nd Jenny, Jackie and I flew to Seattle, met with the congregation, and got a feel for Redmond.
Redeemer Redmond was planted about ten years ago, and has been a particular congregation (with its own elders) for 6 years. It had grown to about 125 people, but currently has about 70 people in the congregation. They do not have a building and are currently leasing space in a hotel conference room. They have one part time staff who is the worship leader.
On Sunday, June 28th, Redeemer Redmond’s congregation voted to extend a call to me, and I’ve accepted that call. My heart and my eyes overflow with tears at the thought of saying goodbye, of the thought on no longer walking and working with you as I have been privileged to do these past 13 years.
Let me walk you through some thoughts on how to process with us.
First, I would encourage you to be confident in God’s call. I believe God’s hand is in this, that God is calling us. This gives me a great sense of courage and confidence, in spite of the fact that I am leaving some of my dearest friends, and my life-work behind. I also believe that God will call to Redeemer Presbyterian in Indy the pastor he wants to lead you in this new chapter.
Second, I want you to be absolutely clear that our brothers and sisters, the leaders at Redeemer Indy, have clearly and unanimously said to us that they do not want us to go, that they desire for us to stay. On June 2nd I shared with the elders the process that Jenny and I were in and asked them for their counsel. Over the next couple of days Jenny talked personally to their wives. They have asked hard questions, communicated their strong desire for us to stay, but also released us if this is God’s call on our life.
Third, I want you to mourn and grieve with me. The tears I feel, my heart being ripped out at the thought of not being with you for decades to come is real. I don’t know why God’s call has come at this time in this way. But I know that His call has a cost. It hurts, at the deepest level. And it helps me to know your heart as well, to hold you and cry with you. This communicates to me that our love is real, that the bond we have in Christ has impacted our lives. So I encourage you to feel free to grieve, to mourn, to ask hard questions, to even flail around a bit. I will not hold that against you. I’ve done a good share of weeping, flailing myself. By God’s grace, I will receive it as part of our journey together.
Our timeline looks like this. I will be working and preaching the first two Sunday of July. The last two weeks of July I will take vacation to oversee the logistics of selling our house, moving, etc.
I look forward to preaching each week in August. I view these five sermons as something like my last “five words” to my spiritual family in Indianapolis.
On August 20th we will drop Jacob off at Purdue. On August 25th we will drop Julian off at George Mason. School starts in the Redmond School District on September 1st, so somehow Jenny, Judah and Jackie will be in Redmond for the start of school.
I expect that there will times for us to get together to grieve, mourn and celebrate. I’ll let you know the details of that as they get nailed down.
My Heavenly Father has used you in my life to powerfully shape me. I owe a debt to the Redeemer congregation, Indianapolis, and IPS that I will never be able to repay. Thank you for your presence in my life. I love you. I look forward to the Heavenly Jerusalem where there will be no death, and where God will wipe away all of our tears.