Transition for the TeWinkles.
The photo above is one of my favorites from the last four years. It happened on an Easter Sunday just after the sunrise service. Two symbols of God’s promise, a rainbow and an empty cross, remind us that God is a God of salvation and life.
This Sunday I announced that my family and I are transitioning back to Grand Rapids, MI; the city from which we came when we first arrived on St. Croix and in many ways represents a feeling of home for our boys. So, it’s with a heavy heart that I made the really difficult decision to accept the call to a congregation there as their Teaching Pastor.
When we first came to St. Croix in 2017 it was for one year. We were greeted, not only by a warm and welcoming congregation, but by Hurricane Maria. It was a startling and aggravating experience, but we didn’t suffer. That was partly because SCRC made sure we didn’t (and also the generous neighbors in LaReine). The silver lining of this time is that we really bonded as a congregation, supporting one another through the ups and downs of recovery.
Then, just as we were starting to imagine a future together, covid put a stop to our plans and a different sort of transition happened. We had to “stay at home” and put our services online. Despite the difficulties there have been silver linings here as well. We are reaching people around the country with our online worship. And, I genuinely believe that God is present in new ways at SCRC, especially through the young men and women who are leading us in worship.
When I accepted the call to stay on at SCRC, I knew that this is where God wanted us to be. A line from a song assured me, “Your labor is not unknown, through the rocks they cry out and the sea it may groan, the place of your toil may not seem like a home, but your labor is not unknown.” Though it didn’t feel like it at the time, St. Croix became a home for us and we have the people of St. Croix Reformed Church to thank for that. Thank you.
I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the last four years despite disaster and disease. We have a Scripture to guide us (Matthew 5:14-16), language that defines us (community, growth, outreach, etc.), and an image to inspire us (Prism). Our Prism Groups are just beginning again and it’s hard for me to imagine leaving before the growth has started. But, I return to another line of that same song, “Your planting and reaping are never the same, but your labor is not in in vain.” It is, after all, God who gives the growth regardless of who is planting or watering the seeds. So, I have some assurance that it’s ok to go.
So, it’s time for the TeWinkles to transition. While I am moving, I am not leaving. My heart is too wrapped up in this island to leave it behind completely. I care too much about seeing its struggles alleviated and its gifts recognized. In addition, we feel a debt of gratitude to the congregation for welcoming us and supporting us through this season of life. I do hope to return on occasion to see how planted seeds have grown and born fruit.
My final Sunday will be November 21, just a short six weeks from now. And, I know it will go fast. I hope that you’ll be able to join us in worship. I invite you to join me for coffee or a beer. I know that this announcement will raise questions and stir up emotions. I welcome them all. Feel free to call me or email me or Message me on Facebook.
I also want you to know that the congregation is in good hands. The Consistory, led by Brad Ebersole, is already working with Classis to find your next pastor. If you want to inquire about the process or be part of the next search team, feel free to reach out to him (740-538-7989; firstname.lastname@example.org).
The refrain of the song that I keep mentioning is a consoling reminder of God’s abiding presence. “For I am with you, I am with you; for I have called you, called you by name. Your labor is not in vain.” People come and go from our lives and those transitions can be hard. I know it will be for us. So, I’m entrusting the move and St. Croix Reformed Church to God’s faithfulness, which always stays the same; reminders of which we see on a regular basis as seen in the photo above.
“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – I Corinthians 15:58