“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” I Cor. 3:6
My family and I were delighted to receive the call from God to come and join you at Saint Timothy’s. I look forward to leading you during this time of transition as you say farewell to Father Brad, and prepare in time to receive the ministry of a new permanent rector. It has been a special gift to be able to work alongside Father Brad for nearly a month. It’s lifted a bit of the burden from both of us, and he has helped me to understand many different ways that God is doing wonderful things among you.
I can certainly understand why you have come to love him so much. He is a man of great compassion and wisdom, and you bear the stamp of his leadership in many ways (as I’m sure you do also of your associate rectors and those who lead you before he arrived). Father Brad’s insistence on God’s love for all people has shaped your active mission program and gathered together a deeply diverse and open-hearted congregation. I know that you will all want to take time in the next few weeks to speak or write to him, thanking him for the way he has helped you to grow in faith and discipleship. You will also want to spend time praying for him and his family as he discerns how to continue using his gifts in retirement.
It’s a good and holy thing to love a departing rector. But it’s never a good thing to rest your faith entirely on the talents and insights of a single human leader. From the beginning, Christian ministry has been envisioned as a temporary call. God calls leaders to serve for a time and then to move on, so others may fill their place. Leaders bring different gifts, and a healthy congregation will learn to receive these gifts graciously, but to remain open to new things that God wants to give.
Saint Paul, for example, founded the church in Corinth, but after he departed to build churches in Asia Minor, a gifted preacher named Apollos took his place. We learn from I Corinthians that this succession of leaders led to conflict in the church, with some of the members declaring themselves as followers of Paul and others of Apollos. Paul condemns the division (which wouldn’t be the last of its kind) as a tragic misunderstanding of the way Christ leads the Church. The Church is Christ’s Body, he reminds them, empowered by His Spirit. He is the head of the church and the source of its life. Christ raises up leaders to share His grace and speak His wisdom. But these leaders only play small roles in His plan. Paul only planted the seed. Apollos only watered. The growth, the miracle of new life at the heart of every church, is Christ’s gift.
If Saint Timothy’s Church depended entirely on Father Brad, it would be something far less than what God has called and equipped it to be. If it was to rely only on my insight and skills, it would be in even worse shape, I can assure you. Father Brad and I are just servants of Christ, seeking His glory, doing His work. This month we have the joy of sharing in that work together. But even after Father Brad departs, I will continue to build on what God has done through him, trusting that Christ intends to do even more good things among and through you in the days to come.