Leaving a church is always tough, tougher when you have had such a great time and also when the congregation has been so wonderfully warm and receptive. And yet, a new era is about to begin, and it is time for us both to embrace it. You will be having new pastoral leadership; I will be looking forward to continued service with another congregation.
I remember many years ago, my youth minister, Ted Hoskins, (who after 60 years I still consider my pastor), used to have us cross and hold each other’s hands in a closing circle after each Pilgrim Fellowship meeting. Then he gave us these words to say, known as the Mizpah benediction, “The LORD watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another.” (Genesis 31:49).
The story surrounding this benediction involves Jacob and Laban (his father-in-law). The two men had some contentious issues between them and neither man trusted the other: Laban had tricked Jacob into marrying both of his daughters (rather than just one); Laban felt that Jacob had tricked him out of much of his wealth.
The two men erected a pile of stones to commemorate a covenant between them. Because they were parting ways (Jacob and his family had left Laban’s estate for Canaan), Laban wanted Jacob to agree before God that he would treat his two daughters (Jacob’s wives) well and not take any other wives besides those two. The statement “May the Lord watch between me and thee” was a reminder to Jacob that God would be watching him to make sure he fulfilled his promise even though Laban would be far away and unable to monitor whether Jacob made good on his promise.
Now there has certainly been no swindling or crooked dealings between IUC and me, so the story behind the benediction does not really apply to our relationship; however, the actual call to ask God to be mindful of us, and what we do, is. My prayer is that God watch over you, bless you and guide you as you continue to serve as stewards of Christ’s gospel. I take comfort in the knowledge that you wish for me the same.
Most of all, I am thankful that God brought us together, that we had the opportunity to serve one another, and do our best to share the GOOD NEWS!
I love you all,