Last Sunday, I preached for the final time as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Phenix City. This week, as we transition to a new place of service, I have had time to reflect and to recall the many reasons for which I am thankful to have shared life and ministry with the people of First Baptist.
For an Alabama church willing to call a Tennessean to serve as pastor and decorate the tables at the welcome reception with orange and white,
For a church willing to welcome everyone,
For Country’s, Minnie’s, Chef Lee’s, Ed’s and El Vaquero,
For Bobby, Barbara, Julia, Daniel W, Ben and singers who always sing with heart, soul and voice.
For all the work that so many did to make the parsonage a wonderful place for Patti, Huck, Chloe and I to call home,
For faithful people who always seemed to be there when church was happening,
For merciful folks with loyalties to and love for Alabama, Auburn and Georgia who shared the pain of Tennessee football losses with me.
For the backpacks of food that are packed and delivered each week to help 35 students at Phenix City Elementary have a little extra,
For all the hours of effort and being together to make “The Holy Smoke Barbeque” happen,
For kids, chaperones and weeks spent at PassportKids,
For the sounds and sights that Bryan, Daniel B., Chris and Jeremy brought to us,
For Advent, Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and other special times of worship,
For gifts of food, plants and Diet Coke,
For the times of sharing communion around the Lord’s table and all the other times that the table spoke to us through creative and thoughtful displays,
For baby dedications and baptisms,
For time with Bubba and the youth from Panama City to the Smoky Mountains and lots of cool places in between,
For those who prepared and those who shared breakfast before Sunday School,
For Wednesday mornings at Jack Hughston,
For ministry to families experiencing a housing crisis through partnership with Valley Interfaith Promise,
For special occasions that caused people to mysteriously start singing “Rocky Top.”
For all the times of being witness to amazing outcomes when individuals who were willing to offer what they were able to do in service to God and others,
For being included in family birthday and holiday celebrations,
For church members who became friends,
For every time we gathered in worship to profess our faith in a God who loves us dearly and who always will,
For the future of First Baptist and the promise that it holds,
For these and many other reasons, I am grateful to have served alongside the people of First Baptist to tell the story of a God who loves us all. Amen.