Dear People of Broken Bow UMC:
On Sunday, February 28, we announced that Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr. and his cabinet have appointed me to serve as lead pastor of Kearney First United Methodist Church, beginning July 1, 2021.
This call was a surprise to me, as I expect it is for the people of BBUMC, since neither I nor our Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) requested a change in pastors. However, I see God’s will and hand in this call in two related ways, which I offer as a sort of explanation to the question, “Why are you moving, Matt?”
First, in January, I began periodically praying the “Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition” (UMH, 607), since I was inviting the people of BBUMC to pray it as well. I was sporadic in my devotion but whole-hearted in my desire that this prayer become my prayer. So I prayed, “Put me to what you will…I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.” I thought maybe this prayer would be about my physical and devotional life, but God had different things in mind, reminding me of my commitment at ordination to serve God’s calling through the Bishop’s discernment and appointment.
Second, Bishop Saenz, Jr. and the cabinet have discerned, through much prayer and conversation, that, while God has given me gifts fit for service to BBUMC, God is calling me to use these gifts for God’s mission in another community. While this is unexpected, I truly believe that God works and speaks through our appointment process. I’ve experienced God’s presence through my appointment to BBUMC, and BBUMC has experienced God’s presence through the appointment of pastors well-suited for its needs in the past. This gives me hope and assurance that God is in the midst of this process today, for the benefit of Kearney FUMC and BBUMC.
Frankly, this news is challenging to me. I’m sure my excitement about new ministry and family opportunities in Kearney will grow; yet, I grieve about leaving BBUMC. I grieve out of gratitude and love: you’ve welcomed me, befriended me, and walked with me in faith. I grieve out of loss: of friendships, ministry opportunities, and the hopes we shared for BBUMC. Finally, I grieve because God has called us to a great mission of disciple-making engagement, and there is so much left undone. But, even with grief, I am so grateful to God for the opportunity to serve with you, and to you for the honor and privilege of being your pastor. Thank you.
In the near future, the SPRC will announce whom the Bishop discerns God is calling to serve as BBUMC’s next pastor. In the meantime, we, BBUMC, have ministry to focus on. The pandemic has greatly reduced our congregational engagement in in-person worship and Christian formation ministries, but Lent is a perfect time to re-engage in our walks with Jesus with BBUMC. We have Vacation Bible School to prepare for, and the opportunities for growth in God’s grace abound. Of course, we’ll also need to plan for how to say, “Good-bye,” and also to welcome a new pastor, but that’s for another time. Until then, let us practice freely yielding to God’s calling in our lives together as we grow as disciples of Jesus Christ who is transforming the world with us.
This article was published in Broken Bow UMC’s March newsletter.
In the coming months, I’ll have more to say about this pastoral transition and the opportunities it creates for mission and ministry development.