Note/disclaimer: I will forget to mention at least one important person in this post – it’s inevitable – I’m sorry…
First of all, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because the news about your faithfulness is being spread throughout the whole world. I serve God in my spirit by sharing the good news about God’s Son, and God is my witness that I continually mention you.Romans 1:8-9
This post is a public “Thank you” note in response to all the love and support Rebekah and I have received during this time of epic transition. In a sense this entire experience has been, and remains, surreal. The fact of it may sink in more as time goes by – I will keep you posted.
Part of the challenge for me is the fact that this is still August. Just earlier this month, there we were, worshipping in the sanctuary with the beautiful people of Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. The spirit of life and love and enthusiasm in the congregation was so overwhelmingly authentic, and I cannot process the idea that we are no longer immersed in such a place.
The last time Rebekah and I moved on from a church family (2013) the tears of farewell were quickly followed by the joy of welcome: One Sunday Rebekah offered her benediction at FPC Brandon – then just two weeks later we were up close and personal with the 500 people who showed up for our first Sunday at WFPC. We have been carried on that wave of excitement ever since!
It’s all about the thanks:
But I digress (believe me, it will happen again!). Today is about saying “THANK YOU!” and about acknowledging the over-and-above lengths so many people went to in order to make Rebekah’s retirement, August 1, such a spectacular day.
Remarkably, there were a lot of people who came from far away. The winner in terms of distance has to be Margie Binder and her daughter, Olivia, who drove all the way from Minneapolis (over 1,200 miles). But Maryanne and Gil Evans made the 665 mile trek from Brandon, Bruce McVey put in 550 from Fayetteville, Tennessee, John and Olivia LaMotte were driven from the Asheville area by their daughter Kathy, and the Chipmans (Dana & Karen – as well as Claire and her husband) braved the traffic from Washington (and we all know getting out of DC without a helicopter is close to impossible).
Additionally, Rebekah’s brother Jesse (and Heather) came from Jacksonville, Tom and Reed McMahan headed over from Virginia Beach, Paul and Katherine Jennings drove from near Greensboro, Diane and Steve Helveston drove in from Chesapeake, Micah and Jeanette McMahan made it over from Charlotte, and Frank and Sylvia Beall intended to come from Pensacola (they got sick but they still get credit!).
Over the top Hard Work:
Meanwhile, literally dozens of Wake Forest folk worked long hours to put together the most wonderful Sunday retirement luncheon, feeding between 350 and 400 people and making the CLC look spectacular.
It would be foolish of me to try and name everyone involved; but the event was masterfully coordinated by Amanda McCabe and Renee Engel, the phenomenal feast was overseen by Dana Wills (WFPC’s inimitable Director of Food Ministries), the program was ably emceed by Krista Fuller, and others who were indispensable include Jay Joyner, Kim Glasscock and the music ministry team, Katherine Peiper, Sandy Buda, Pat Moore (and other WOW women), Robin Roper, Larry Roper (and his tree-planting team), Jim Mather, Lisa Dolfi, Kathy Drake, Michael Williamson (and probably another 25 people), plus the amazing youth who served tables so well that one of our guests thought the church had hired a catering company.
The speakers, too, featuring Krista Fuller, John Fawcett, Ted and Moffett Churn, Marianne Evans, Bruce McVey, Armin Harell, Allie Wilmoth, and Jay Joyner.
And then there were the congregation’s generous gifts. Because of you, Miami and Bahrain may not be so far away!
I haven’t even talked about the final worship services, and the masterful musical offerings by the Praise Team, the Chancel Choir, the men’s chorus, the women’s chorus, and Kim’s leadership.
Finally, I have to mention the search team from 2012-2013. These folk loved this church so much, they listened to the Holy Spirit, they found Rebekah, and they took the risk of inviting someone so uniquely gifted and unconventional to lead this beautiful, challenged, faithful, busy, diverse, still young, loaded with rich potential community of faith.
So thanks, also, to Carolyn Wiles, Marv Baker, Allie Wilmoth, Armin Harrell, Betty Franks, Linda Adkins, and Paul Kucyk.
There is no adequate way to tie up the loose ends of such a sweeping “thank you”. I know it’s inevitable that I have overlooked key people, but much of that weekend in still a blur to me.
Suffice it to say that nobody did anything for Rebekah or for me so much as they did it all to the Glory of God. Because what an epic retirement such as the one we experienced at WFPC really achieves is telling a story. And the story such a successful day tells is the Good News Story of love, light, grace, passion, redemption, and hope.
Such a story reflects on Jesus, and the eternal promises that play out in and through such as light-saturated community as Wake Forest Presbyterian Church.
Y’all are, as the song goes, “Some Kind of Wonderful.” – DEREK
Here – below – is the 10:30 worship service from August 1. You wan’t want to miss the music, the love, and the powerful message Rebekah shared:
I expect retirement will not feel ‘real’ until after the beginning of 2022. Peace be with you both.
Be warned. Retirement from full time Christian ministry is not the end. It simply marks a new beginning. You may remember that I retired in August of 2000, took several months off, then went to work part time as the Parish Associate for Rebekah at First Pres Brandon.
Ive been mostly retired since primarily I was doing hospital and nursing home visits with Ken Carter until this Pandemic put a stop to that. I hope to be able to do more of this in the future.
The future belongs to you and Jesus. Follow him wherever he calls you.
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