“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” – Philippians 1:3-5 (New Revised Standard Version)
Just about every morning for the past seven years, I have spent at least an hour in prayer, lifting to the Lord every church and pastor on the Alexandria District by name, along with any particular needs or concerns that I knew at the time. Sometimes I will receive inspirations from the Lord in that prayer time, but more typically I simply pray without expecting anything more the blessing of prayer itself, spending time completely devoted to God in contemplation and conversation.
As my retirement day approaches with unrelenting steadiness, I have been reflecting on what an amazing adventure it has been: four decades of pastoral service with people on a mission to offer Christ to the world in life-giving and world-transforming ways; serving along the way in several conference boards and agencies; and finally, seven years serving as the district superintendent of what Bishop Kern Eutsler wrote in 2015 was the “flagship district of the Virginia Conference.” (Of course, he had his own bias, having served as Alexandria DS himself in the 1970’s.)
As I reflect and remember, there are moments of deep sorrow and pain; there are moments of unspeakable joy and celebration; there are people with faces and stories; there are relationships with Christ awakened, nurtured, empowered; there are community missions with zeal and impact as well as indifference and apathy; there are colleagues who have been great companions on the way. All of it has created a precious and sacred journey for which I am very thankful.
I am particularly grateful for all of you who have blessed me by your ministry with churches and communities on the Alexandria District. Especially, I thank Maureen Allison and Martha Flanagan, who have served with me as the administrative professionals on the Alexandria District. It has been my deepest honor to serve as the superintendent for this great district during these challenging times, and to see how we have met the challenges with faith, hope, and love. All of this, of course, is theologically grounded in the life of the Triune God who is the wellspring of the Church’s life. Leaning on God’s grace, we have seized opportunities, weathered storms, and seen dreams become realities. We trust God to lead us on this adventure called discipleship, to what comes next.
Sarah Calvert has been called for such a time as this, with many gifts, much experience, and magnificent training for church vitality and community engagement. She will need our support and encouragement as she enters into the uncharted territory of superintending both Arlington and Alexandria Districts simultaneously. I bless her with my confidence, trust, and prayers as we move forward into the coming year.
For each church and clergyperson, I also offer my blessings for all that you need to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, seeking always to offer Christ in ways that will be winsome, healing, and hopeful for the needs of our troubled world.
Grace and Peace,