Pastor Rachel's Sabbatical Farewell

Almost exactly eight years ago I sat in the Washington Room—away from my 7-month old baby Mae for the first time—facing a panel of the most intimidating people I had ever met. "Rachel, you work at a grocery store, and you have some education experience, but no formal education background, only an M.Div. Will you have Sunday school during church, or before worship? What sort of educational programming expertise will you bring to our congregation? What is your vision for our future?" It was hot in that room, or maybe it was just me. Either way, I was sweating.What could I add to a congregation whose kids spoke Mandarin, and whose elders were the movers and shakers of the capital of the free world? I took a deep breath, and said, "I don't have answers to your questions. How could I? I don't know the congregation, and it would be foolish to come in with a ready-made package to force the congregation into. So if that is who you want, I can't be that for you. But I can offer you dedication, creativity, caring, and partnership. I would be honored to learn alongside you what God is calling us to do."Eight years, another daughter, and an ordination later, I hope that I have made my search committee proud. This congregation has certainly made me proud. Growing in outreach and service, deepening our educational and leadership programs, re-establishing officer training and more. This church—while it will always maintain its core identity of legacy, harmony, and action—has continued to answer God's call of faith.Now, as I take some time away on my sabbatical, I leave you with some pretty hefty projects to continue while I'm gone. The first is to continue to support the total renovation of the Children's Sunday school and worship spaces on the 3rd floor, through our GrowingUP campaign. This is not just a side project for a select few, but a congregation-wide commitment to the education and formation of our youngest members. Please give, pray, or volunteer.The second, you may have heard rumors about in the past few weeks. This summer, GPC will be looking into developing a new worshipping community in Glover Park at the underutilized St. Luke's Mission Center. [Dinner Church] as it has been dubbed, is an experiment meant to bring new folks into Christian community through intentional gathering around dinner on Wednesday nights. (What? I didn't want you to get BORED while I was gone.)  This project unites what makes GPC unique and sends us out into the world to test our resources, our leadership training, and our faith. While not all of you will be directly involved in this new venture, please offer your prayers and support to those in our midst who do feel the call. This is something GPC hasn't tried for a while (a few centuries?), so we may be rusty, but we're never ones to shy away from a challenge.And so, along with these twin challenges, I leave you with this prayer:Holy Lord, we thank you for the many ways that you sustain us and send us into the world. I thank you for this community of faith in Georgetown, and the many ways we reflect your gracious love and power into this world. This summer may we continue to be faithful servants of Christ, living lives of abundant love and forgiveness, remembering with joy the promise that in Jesus we are free to live lives fully and without fear. Help us to put you and put others at the center of our lives, just as you have placed us at the center of your care. As we care for our youngest and reach out into new communities, may your Spirit be our ever-present inspiration.And now, keep alert! Be courageous, be strong. And let all you do be done in love.Amen. Peace,Pastor Rachel