Words fall short when I try to tell you what the installation this past Sunday meant to me. I confess that as the day approached, my anxiety wished we could just skip the whole thing. I was worried that too much of the focus was turning on me rather than on the 4-way covenant we were forming among our congregation, your pastor, our denominations, and God.
My anxiety, however, was unfounded. The only way I can describe that day is that it was a joyous celebration of all of us. The myriad of musicians, worship leaders, and contributors celebrated the beautiful and resilient people of our congregation. The presence of our denomination families celebrated those who have supported us all along the way. The palpable Spirit of joy among us celebrated our God who has poured an embarrassment of riches at our feet. And my heart celebrated that God has answered my prayers and entrusted me with the church I had always dreamed of: a people who are open and affirming, who treasure children and youth, who are generous in Spirit and passionate about justice, and who welcomed me with open arms despite all failures and faults.
I felt a bit like a bride on her wedding day, over the moon in love -- and installation is like a wedding in many ways too. We both covenant together with God to walk together and support each other on the road ahead. Most installations, however, are a bit like arranged marriages. The church usually only knows what they have gathered from the pastor's profile, a couple of interviews and reference checks, and a trial sermon. The pastor also knows little of the congregation; he or she has most likely done some research and visited once.
In our case, however, we both enter this covenant with eyes wide open, knowing full well each other's gifts and growing edges after 6 years of life together. You have shown such incredible love to me, despite the fact that I am terribly forgetful and that I have been limping through a divorce for almost a year. And I can say without hesitation that I love this church... despite the fact that our sanctuary may not have windows and that we still squirm sometimes when talking about money!
So with open eyes and an open heart, I am grateful to you, United Christian Church of Austin, for loving me, choosing me, and most of all, being you.
I want to thank everyone who traveled this long road with faith and hope, especially all the members of our Council the past 3 years, and in particular Andrea Larson and Milena Thompson.
I want to thank our Pastoral Search Committee who faithfully did all 5 steps of the Intentional Interim Process, completing the developmental work that has laid the groundwork for a long and healthy pastorate. They (and our council) could have easily skipped this hard work and passed it off to the next pastor, but instead, they rolled up their sleeves during a global pandemic: Clark Thompson, Chase Larson, Miguel Flores, Lydia Tomosulo, Cherie Hinch, and Bryan Thornhill.
I want to thank everyone who made our celebration Sunday so joyous, especially our talented musicians Liz Myrick, Melissa Jamison, Emily Jamison Guerrero, Mark Simoneau, Pastor Meghan Dever, Julie Stiles, and Ann Vanderschaaf. I want to thank our lectors Clark Thompson and Wendy Heckler; our deacon Diane Baker; our AV technician Ethan Roberts; our officiant Pastor Meghan Dever; our denominational representatives Pastor Cark Schwartz-King, Rev. Al Walker and Rev. Phil Hodson; communion celebrants Rev. Dr. Jenny Veninga and Rev. Dr. Sarah Hensler; our preacher Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard; and our liturgist Rev. Elsa Cook, who wrote our beautiful liturgy.
I also want to thank the Installation Team, again Pastor Meghan, Wendy, Clark, Rev. Elsa, who were in our worship service, along with Sam Myrick, and our Administrator Kelley DeCleene, who amazes us with her ability to make all things run smoothly.
And I want to thank our Staff Team, our new members who knocking our socks off: Ethan, our bookkeeper Paula, and our sexton Jose, and Kelley. They have turned our staff into "the dream team" -- the most amazing church staff I have ever seen or heard of. I also want to thank Diane for stepping in and stepping out of retirement when we needed someone to fill in.
Last but not least, from the very bottom of my heart, I want to thank Emily and Pastor Meghan. These two ladies have been through it all with me. The three of us have laughed together, cried together, and worked together through staff transitions, a global pandemic, and personal struggles. Through it all, these ladies stayed loyal and dedicated to the church they love. They have been the consistent thread of love keeping your staff together.
This week hasn't been a ministry minute, but a ministry hour because I have so many people to thank and so many things to be thankful for. My cup overflows, and my heart is full to the brim.