28 February 2018
I believe it was this week nine years ago when Helen and I came to candidate at First Covenant Church. We were unsure about a move to Alaska and we came with concerns. But the welcome we received from this congregation melted our hesitations and won our hearts. We have enjoyed this church family, Anchorage, and the great state of Alaska, tremendously.
During these years we have journeyed and grown together. Some loved ones have passed on and yet God has also brought many new and wonderful people to join with our church family. And this year we are seeing a good number of our people advance to plant a new church in Mountain View. Such is the way in healthy families; we add and we send off. God has blessed. Quyana.
The author of Lamentations reminds us that there are seasons for beginnings and seasons for endings. For me this is the season to depart. I am announcing my retirement effective in three months. This is not easy. I love this church
Some of you will no doubt reason that I am retiring to be closer to family and you would be right. Our plans are to retire down to the Bay Area in Northern California where we will be close to our son Chris, his wife Laryssa and our grandson Isaiah. Being in the lower 48 will mean we will be closer to our other children and grandchildren in Chicago. Those of you with grandchildren will appreciate the longing to be near these precious ones and not miss the early years. It is time for me to step aside.
Some of you will no doubt reason that I am retiring because I am getting to the age where that makes sense, and you would be right. I am 68 this year and there are days I feel all those years. Although my major health issues surrounding cancer and my heart seem to be quiet, my chronic cough has been a concern and other lesser problems seen to come up with regularity. And besides my body, I experience greater difficulty remembering things that should be easy to remember. It is embarrassing to be “up front” and struggle with names that are clearly somewhere in my memory but not on my tongue. It is time for me to step aside.
And perhaps some of you will no doubt reason that I am retiring because I find it increasingly difficult to deal with the larger church in America. In preaching and in conversation, I struggle with the institutions to which our church is connected. I am discouraged by the leadership of the Evangelical Covenant Church with its "feel good" talk of justice in the abstract but avoidance of the big justice issues of the Bible and of the world around us. On the issues where I believe the Holy Spirit wants to lead the church towards a Kingdom witness, the Covenant, along with the larger evangelical church, is either silent or marching in the wrong direction. It is time for me to step aside.
I will not be leaving right away. In the coming months I look for us to have opportunity to process the different emotions we all may feel over the coming separation. But even more importantly I want to see First Covenant Church maintain the momentum that has brought us to this point. It is my hope that over the next months I will have the opportunity to meet with many of you individually to thank you for your support for this church and the ministry we have shared together.
The leadership of this church is strong and committed. First Covenant’s mission is unchanged and the dedication of the many people who are First Covenant give every reason to believe that even better days are ahead for this church. Our church board is a wonderful team of wisdom and experience. Their leadership along with that of pastors Criss Mitchell and Hugh Forbes will carry us to the new day that God has before this church. To God be the Glory! Quyana Agayun!
with love, hope, and faith,
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.