Happy anniversary! For better and for worse, we have completed one year together as pastor and people. This time last year I was looking toward my first sermon here at Hamilton Mill. Now I can’t decide: Does that feel like yesterday or a decade ago? As I grow older my sense of time gets weirder and weirder. What I can say quite objectively is that Kathy and I arrived here at Hamilton Mill in June, 2015, and it’s now June, 2016. That’s a year.
I thought about summarizing here the statistics of that year—you know, how many people joined (a bunch), how many baptisms (every one a joy), professions of faith (miracles upon miracles), and how many died (every one an aching loss, every life a gift). I could also try to figure out the number of people who have walked away in disappointment (some, I know). But instead of talking about numbers at the moment, I prefer to ponder the moments among the numbers.
We have moved together through a year of worship, telling and diving into Christ’s story from Alpha to Omega. We gathered at the stable, at the empty tomb, and in Pentecost’s upper room. We’ve shared God’s grace in Bible study, in conversation, in service to others, in prayer. I watched as you rejoiced with those who rejoiced and wept with those who wept. I have seen again and again people respond with grace to needs and challenges. I am a witness to your faithfulness as the church of Jesus Christ.
Over the past year we bid farewell to some staff members and welcomed others, and through it all I have been blessed to work with faithful, gifted clergy and lay ministers who love with the love of Christ. I give thanks.
It’s been quite a year. And, oh yeah, both of my sons got married. A lot has happened.
Beyond a doubt, good has been accomplished, and, beyond a doubt, there was more we could have done. But now, here we are, a year into our ministry together, and I can’t help but wonder how many more years lie ahead and how it will all be remembered (“What was that guy’s name? You know, the one who was here for a little while between Dave and X? Some kind of interim, wasn’t he?”).
I am counting up the moments and years—one so far—but the truth is I’m also counting DOWN the years—one less than we had a year ago. I just don’t know how long the countdown will be. It turned out to be 10 years at Fayetteville First and, before that, seven years at Embry Hills.
All I can say for sure is that we’re starting year two, and I am grateful. Only now am I beginning to see with some clarity the outlines of my own ministry here, but we know that this church’s roots are strong and healthy, and from our history we know God can and will work miracles and wonders through our flesh and blood. As we answer Christ’s call to leadership and servanthood in this community (and for the church, leadership and servanthood are pretty much synonymous), we are not afraid. We have seen what Christ can do through us when we say yes.
I pray God will make me worthy to serve with you for a long time to come. I pray that the Holy Spirit will stretch me and reshape me and carry us together into ministries and moments we haven’t yet imagined. And I pray that as the days add up and the years count down, we will discover again and always, always and again, the heights and depths of joy to be found in the sharing of Christ’s love.
Rev. Mark Westmoreland
Author: Jenn Harris
“I am dedicated to helping our church communicate the love of Jesus Christ, and passionate about helping people connect with others and our amazing God.”