Dear members and friends of Gloria Dei,
At our meeting yesterday I informed the congregation council that I had notified Bishop Suarez that I will be retiring at the end of this year and, therefore, resigning as Gloria Dei’s Pastor.
My last Sunday leading worship will be Reformation Sunday, October 29. Instead of taking my remaining month of vacation, I will continue to carry on various tasks remotely during November and December, including preparing bulletins, the eNews, and the worship notice. I will likely lead a book discussion group and participate in meetings via Zoom. Hopefully this will provide adequate time for the synod to have an interim pastor in place by January 1.
These decisions are always judgment calls. I will be almost 68 at year’s end and will have served just over five years here as pastor, and forty years altogether. While I will likely continue performing various pastoral activities, I think it is time to bring to an end my career as a parish pastor. Thus, we will move back to New Mexico where I will create by new “retired” life, whatever that might be.
I have truly enjoyed my time at Gloria Dei. While it is a cliché to say every congregation is unique, there are very few that share Gloria Dei’s identity as an island congregation welcoming people from across the country and even the world. The congregation’s cordiality and welcoming atmosphere immediately attracted me, just as it has the countless people who have worshiped here over the years.
The event that will loom largest in my memories of Gloria Dei is, of course, the pandemic lockdown. With no preparation and little warning, we were suddenly thrust into doing ministry in a completely new way. It was one of the most stressful times of my ministry, yet surprisingly also one of the most rewarding.
For months each week’s streamed service felt like a new adventure. Equipment malfunctions, Internet disruptions, and the quirks of social media rules and algorithms were constant challenges. But your appreciation of our efforts propelled us forward. As unlike our in-person worship as they were, those streamed services soon developed an appeal of their own.
The culmination and perhaps “high point” of that time came after nine months with our in-person outdoor Christmas Eve worship service (on December 23!). I still hear people talk fondly of that parking lot service on a beautiful night under the stars. Other memorable events from that time were the drive thru pet blessing and food drive, outdoor fellowship at Palma Sola Park, and drive way diva gatherings.
And then there was that new word which entered our vocabulary: Zoom. Love it or hate it, Zoom became another way for us to continue many of our usual activities, including Sunday fellowship, council and committee meetings, and book discussion groups. Today, live stream worship and Zoom events are regular parts of our congregational life. The silver lining to our pandemic experience has been that this technology has enabled us to draw closer together our far-flung church family.
Most congregations were seriously impaired by the pandemic, and some did not survive. Gloria Dei met and grew from the challenge. My deepest thanks go to all of you who supported, and were part of, our stumbling learning experience with these new ways to do ministry. Your encouragement, flexibility, and willingness to take risks blessed us all but were especially appreciated by me as I groped my way forward in this new ministry environment.
Even before the pandemic, I believed one of my tasks was to inform you of, and speak honestly about, the challenges facing the church-at-large and Gloria Dei in particular. As the congregation transitions to a new chapter of its life, there will be difficult questions to face. I believe you are up to that challenge. Gloria Dei’s values, especially its commitment to being an inclusive and caring community centered on God’s love in Christ, are all that’s needed to guide that process to a fruitful conclusion.
The next few months will be bittersweet as we enjoy this time together, say our goodbyes, and begin looking forward to what lies ahead. We will need to support one another in this time, and I ask that you will especially support the council as it takes on the responsibility of leading this transition.
Finally, I want to say thanks to all of you for welcoming me and Joe into this community. I know (perhaps better than you) that we couldn’t take such a welcome for granted. I will always remember with appreciation your support, and that of the AMI community, after the Easter sunrise service “kerfuffle” last year.
Together we have laughed, planned, and squabbled but considering all that we have been through, this has been a remarkably harmonious journey. I have continued to grow and learn, and sincerely appreciate the opportunity Gloria Dei provided me to do that.
I pray God’s blessing on all of us during these next few months. And I look forward to one more fellowship time mimosa before I leave.
Peace, Pastor Doug