Sunday in worship, the announcement was made that there will be a pastoral change this year. I am being appointed to serve Belle Meade UMC beginning July 1st and Forest Hills will welcome Rev. Kristin Clark-Banks.
This is one of those times when it can be difficult on congregations and pastors, alike. Change is never easy. And I believe it is important for us to name the grief that we will all feel. Over the course of our seven years together, we have built relationships and have come to love each other. Because of that, this change can feel something like a “death.” I truly hope we can address our grief creatively and honestly. You have all been so welcoming and loving to Tari and I. There aren’t words adequate to express our gratitude for that.
Over the course of the next couple of months, there will be ample time for us to bid one another “vaya con dios” and “fare thee well.” Even more important is our need to consider ways to welcome Kristin, her husband Brady, and their son Thaddeus. Maybe we can get their mailing address and ask everyone to write a note or card welcoming them to Forest Hills. It is critical that we make a great first impression on one another.
Kristin currently serves—ironically enough—at Belle Meade. She is absolutely one of our best and brightest and we are so fortunate to have her appointed here. She is going to do wonderful things among you—with your help.
And this is an historic appointment for Forest Hills. Kristin will be the first woman to serve as the Sr. Pastor. This is a great thing and it should be an easy thing given the number of exceptional women we have—and have had—in leadership at every level of our church. Kristin will bring a perspective to which, I believe, you will be drawn immediately.
Let me say one final word for now about the “United Methodist process.” All pastors are a part of a deep covenant with each other. Pastors are members of an Annual Conference, rather than any local church. The Annual Conference actually DOES serve as the church for pastors. When we are ordained, we promise to keep the spirit of John Wesley alive by agreeing to “itinerate.” That simply means we trust our Bishop and Superintendents—under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer—to send us where we are needed for the season in which we are needed for as long as we are needed. Every year there are retirements and local church situations that require a certain number of pastors to be reassigned. I signed on to this covenant just as Kristin did.
Let me stress—this is not a bad thing. It is simply a change I hope we will all embrace. You have heard me quote Dr. Seuss before and this is as good a moment as any—“Don’t cry because it’s over—SMILE because it happened.”
There will be more for us to say to one another in time. For now, Tari and I love you all very much and have been honored to serve as your pastoral family.
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.