ep·i·logue: The other day, as I was cruising Brandon Boulevard in our rented minivan, I found myself thinking about how to title my “tribute” post to First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, and put some closure on yesterday’s poignant events. Then – “poof” – there it was, all over 107.3 on my FM dial. I heard the 80’s band Grand Funk Railroad blasting out “Somekinda Wonderful” at full volume. “That’s it!” I told Rebekah, “That’s the headline when I write my official goodbye!”
I tried not to be paparazzi yesterday morning; my friend (and excellent photographer) Richard Crawford was handling “document this” duties, but I did indulge myself with a couple of images of Rebekah handing out Bibles, preaching and then offering the benediction with Tim. So I’ll intersperse today’s post with four photographs from our last Sunday.
NEWS YOU CAN USE: One of the local newspapers asked Rebekah and me to list some of our favorite things about FPCB, and our answer was that the church we’re leaving is one of the strongest, most healthy, discipleship-oriented congregations we’ve ever known. FPCB has its priorities right; it’s a church full of people with diverse positions when it comes to social issues, politics, and theology, but it’s a church united in its commitment to live the Gospel of Love! Nobody can deny the enthusiasm, the passion, the faithfulness and the focus on Jesus.
Because FPCB is not about Rebekah, or Tim, or the choir, or the amazing praise orchestra; it’s about Jesus. If there’s one legacy we can leave behind with 100% certainty, then it’s the truth that this church belongs to Jesus.
And just look at the children! Rebekah was so happy she had the chance to present the rising second graders with their Bibles one more time. You could see the eagerness on their faces, the excitement at being handed the Word of God, and the love for Rebekah because these children know how much she values them and genuinely cares for them
Children can spot a fake a mile away… they can also tell the real thing when they see it; and the joyful, faithful, enthusiastic children at FPCB testify more than anything to the genuineness of FPCB, and the authenticity of the vibrant life there. So I thank God for the children’s ministry, and for the young families that spill light and life all over the place. Madison – and all the other rising second grade students – we’re going to miss your witness to Jesus so much.
PRAISE: Another telling fact about FPCB is the Praise Orchestra that supports 8:30 worship. This photograph only shows a portion of the band, but what an amazing privilege to play acoustic guitar with an orchestra that includes trumpets, trombones, French horn, violin, clarinets, flutes, oboes, synthesizer, piano, drums, bass and lead guitars, congas, voices, and often more!
All these individual gifts, blending together under the direction of the Holy Spirit (and director Don Zegel) to offer praise to God and encouragement to one-another. If that’s not a microcosm of what FPCB is all about, then I don’t know what is! This church is so diverse, so varied in talents and mission, but so unified in love. That’s something to celebrate, and it’s certainly an orientation toward both worship and fellowship that needs to be emulated by other faith communities.
I COULD GO ON…: But I’m not going to. The amazing local representation of the Body of Christ known as First Presbyterian Church of Brandon is SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL in so many ways. Rebekah’s ministry has worked toward this day for many years. I’m not bragging when say that it’s because of Rebekah’s unique leadership that FPCB has moved from struggling to strong, and from depressed to a congregation overflowing with passion, enthusiasm, possibility and joy.
It’s only appropriate that God has challenged Rebekah with the possibility of helping another Presbyterian Church become a “Life-Charged” community of faith. And it’s only appropriate that FPCB is now excited about, and looking forward to, what the future holds, both via Tim Black’s leadership and the leadership of the next senior pastor sometime in the next year.
Rebekah and I may have already left the state, but Rev. Tim Black is acting head of staff, and he is leading a vibrant, forward-moving Presbyterian church. So at the end of morning worship, and after over 400 people had shared one more Sunday morning with us, Tim and Rebekah offered the benediction together, each using two of their favorites.
First Brandon really is “some kind of wonderful!” I love you all, and I will never ever stop praying for you and the good work you continue to do in the name of Jesus – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.