We are very blessed to have Reverend Debra Wallace-Padgett as our Bishop and Reverend Ann Robins as our District Superintendent. In the past, congregations could never know when they might hear a word about who their next appointed pastor will be. Under Bishop Wallace-Padgett, what has been handled clumsily through gossip is now made clear to everyone in our Annual Conference. On Sunday, April 7, a member of the Staff Parish Relations Committee will inform all congregations who they will receive as a new pastor during worship services.

While I do not know who will be appointed to follow me as Lead Pastor, I know for a fact that our Bishop and District Superintendent have been working hard to find the right person. I have every confidence in the world that enormous amounts of prayer, reflection, and hard work have gone into their decision-making process.

I know what it is like to be the one coming as the new Lead Pastor at First United Methodist Church, Oak Ridge. It is exciting and frightening. Exciting—because it is known as one of the best churches in the Conference. (It is really the best, but most pastors don’t know that until they are here). It has a reputation for having great worship, being progressive, caring for people in the community, and being filled with intelligent members who are not afraid to ask questions. All of those are wonderful qualities, and anyone appointed here will be excited to be coming. Of course it is frightening as well because the unknown always is.

Regardless of who is blessed to receive this appointment, my prayer is that we will choose prior to their arrival to be caring and supportive to them and their family. I have spent enough time in ministry to know that every pastor brings strengths and gifts that can help a congregation grow in faithful ministry. If we are open to the Holy Spirit and the next pastor’s gifts, we will be blessed and enriched. You were certainly patient with me in my first year of ministry among you, and it made all the difference in the world. Let us offer the same gracious welcome to our next Lead Pastor.

Blessings and Peace,
Mark