When I came to Piedmont, Craig Stinson was the district superintendent. He showed me around the church and when I came to the sanctuary, I asked him, "Is this the chapel?"
He smiled and said, "No, this is the sanctuary. This is why they need to build a new facility."
That was in the late fall of 2000 before I came that January.
It took a while to build up the congregation for moving. Needless to say, there were setbacks along the way. When we finally decided on a plan, it took a while to build the new facility.
Our first worship service in the new building was Christmas Eve in 2008. We packed the place out and it was standing room only. I'm still not sure how many we had in there.
Shirley saw a mouse that evening while she was sitting next to the organ. She said that if it had run across her foot she would have screamed but it didn't. Our church mouse had likely come in from the cold during the construction.
I think one of my favorites was the Sunday worship service following the tornado in 2011. Our congregation and community really came together in the aftermath and showed the world how discipleship can alleviate suffering.
We've taken a lot of trips together in mission which I have always enjoyed.
We've studied the Bible in many different formats and with lots of different groups.
We've brought in many new members to our church. Not all have stayed active but I feel that we have been consistent in our hospitality of the Gospel.
I've taken more children and youth to camp than I can count. I love our camp setting and feel confident that this ministry will continue to be a strength for Piedmont.
I'll miss each person as I feel that each relationship helps us to see God a little more clearly as God works differently in each life.
This Sunday is Ascension Sunday as we look at the church calendar. The Ascension is the doctrine that Jesus ascended into heaven forty days following the resurrection.
This preceded the birth of the church at Pentecost by ten days. The disciples must have been afraid and probably stressed at the thought of moving forward in ministry alone. Except that they weren't alone. The Holy Spirit continued to be the presence of God then and continues to be the presence of God today.
I'm certainly not Jesus and the congregation certainly understands that God isn't going anywhere. Nevertheless, there is always fear and tension when leadership changes.
Probably my greatest gift to the church has been to be a non-anxious presence in the midst of some of the chaos we've faced together. I have always tried to encapsulate "the peace of Christ which passes all understanding" in my ministry.
I hear the words of the risen Christ, "Peace be with you."
They are the words for this age that we need just as they are needed in every age.
As I leave this place, I hope to leave just as I arrived: in Christ's peace.
I hope that you know this peace and that this peace will continue to settle on this congregation for years to come. There is a strength in it that draws people in.
This Sunday will be my final time to lead in worship as Piedmont's pastor. Worship will be a time of celebration and we'll share in Holy Communion together. Later that evening, we'll join together in fellowship for a cookout. If you're in town, I hope to see you there!
May God's peace be with you.