The church held a celebration event for me this past Sunday for my 10 years at First Trinity. Some of those who weren’t able to make it asked if I could share my words from the event, so here they are…
Sue told me I’d get to say a few words today, which I took to be about 20 minutes, so bear with me. Sue and I actually joke about how I don’t have feelings, but rather have “thinkings”. So these are some of my “thinkings” about my time here. And it seemed good, right, and salutary to share three things with you that are based on our core values at First Trinity.
Celebrating Life Together
We are an authentic community that celebrates the hurts and joys of life together.
Jaime and I both grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area. For my internship, I was sent to Memorial Lutheran outside Houston, Texas. It was a great place for us. We met some great people who had a profound influence on our life together, as well as my professional life. It seemed like a long-term stop for us. We purchased a house and “settled down” as it were. But only a couple years after buying that house, God starting messing with us.
It was a long journey that included a stop back in Ohio for a year and a half before landing in Buffalo 10 years ago. When we moved here, we still had that house for sale in Texas. We honestly weren’t sure how we could make it work with two house payments, but First Trinity encouraged us to trust God’s provision together, and that they would make sure we didn’t sink financially. About four months after moving here, we sold the house at a severe loss.
With 10 years of perspective, we look back on those events and realize that while we lost a house in the move, we gained a home. You welcomed us into your lives with open arms and hearts. More than anywhere else we’ve ever lived, Buffalo has become home to us. Our kids (which you show such love and patience for) were born here. Some of our best memories are rooted in this place. We love “celebrating life together” with this authentic community.
All people—individuals, families, communities and nations—are important and we love them because God first loved us.
Professionally, First Trinity has been such a blessing to me. As a church worker, I’ve always known that one of my primary roles at a church is to “feed” others. I love this part of my job. Whether it was confirmation class, High School or Adult classes, or informal conversations, I’ve been blessed to be able to feed others. But this has also been a place for me to be fed and grow, to feel important and loved.
Someone suggested back in Texas that I should explore being a pastor. I told them I’d never be a pastor because I wouldn’t enjoy preaching, nor would I be good at it. Shortly after I got here, the good Rev. Dr. Chuck told me I should explore becoming a pastor. Soon, I was covering for Chuck when he was away. Surprisingly, people didn’t walk out and leave First Trinity after my first sermon. In fact, some of my 5:30 friends even rated it a 10 if I remember correctly. People I respect and care about saw something in me, even when I didn’t, and encouraged me to grow and serve in new ways, and what a blessing it has been. (By the way, if you’re wondering why I’m not a pastor yet, the new excuse is that my jokes aren’t good enough, but I’ve been learning from the best, so someday maybe…)
This is one small story of how I’ve been fed in this community. Never did I think I’d get to work with another DCE, let alone one as respected and capable—some might say masterful—as Sue Steege. As if that wasn’t enough, I get to work with an amazing, compassionate and caring—some might even say Outstanding new DCE (though not very new anymore!)—named Bekah Freed. We have a lot of fun together, and even get some work done if you can believe that.
And it’s not just Pastor and Sue and Bekah, but our entire staff. I am so blessed by their wisdom and grace, and the love and care we have for each other.
Rooted and Relevant
The ancient truth of God’s Word—hope and grace in Jesus—transforms lives today.
2,000 years ago, Jesus had this outrageous battle plan for saving the world. He would lead a rescue mission that would cost him his life, a price he was more than willing to pay for each of us. He then entrusted the responsibility of telling the world of this good news to a bunch of largely unschooled, unremarkable guys. But he gave them the Holy Spirit, and as it turns out, that was more than enough to get the job done.
They spread the word and entrusted the message to the next generation, which in turn spread the word and passed it on again. The delivery methods changed over time, but the core message did not: Jesus died that we might live. On and on and on the torch was divided and passed to more and more people in more and more places, until it reached “First” Trinity in 1839. For 166 years, people divided and passed that torch to others in this place and 10 years ago, I got to join that chain. It seems fitting to describe my time as a link in the chain in 3 words: “What a joy.”
Many on our team have finished the race as it were and are cheering us on as we continue running and building on their work. We trust in the same Spirit that was given to those unremarkable men 2,000 years ago, looking to Him to guide and direct us along the path, as we faithfully hand the torch to those that come after us.
So thanks for welcoming us to be a part of this community. The love and kindness you have shown us these last 10 years has meant so much to me and my family. I’ll leave you with Paul’s words to his dear friends and partners in ministry at the church in Philippi:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:3-6 (ESV)