I was thrilled our church voted Sunday to call Pastor A.J. Reynolds as the next pastor, beginning April 1, 2022. The vote was overwhelmingly positive and indicates the strong support that marks the start of his ministry. A.J.’s call marks a new and exciting time for our church. He is multi-talented, smart, loves the Lord, loves you, and is well known by our fellowship from his years of faithful service here. A.J. is also a superb preacher and teacher, with the new vision to move our church forward. I pray you will support him the way you have supported me. The work of the Gospel goes forward, and I am excited for you that A.J. is in position to continue and grow the work here.
David Burroughs completed the work in February at Walnut Ridge Health Care for our church to live stream Wednesday evening Bible Study and Sunday morning worship to the residents there. The work was no small effort and a special thanks to David for getting this done. This ministry was made possible by memorial contributions in memory of Mrs. Lee Anderson, the mother of Patti Dunlap, who passed away in 2015. Patti and her family wanted to remember her mom with something that would benefit Walnut Ridge residents. This addition certainly does that. David reported that since the services began on February 6, between ten and fifteen residents have attended each service with enthusiastic participation. I think this ministry will continue to grow. It connects those of our church who live at Walnut Ridge and also opens a new avenue for ministry. I am so pleased to see this start and know it will bear fruit in the future. If you are interested in being there on a Wednesday evening or Sunday morning to turn the equipment on, just let David or AJ know.
My retirement on March 31, concludes over fourteen years here as pastor (three and a half years bi-vocationally from 2006 to 2009 and full time since April 2011). I have mixed feelings as I leave. First, I have never not “worked” since I became an adult. That is a significant change, though that I have watched many of you navigate it successfully. I look forward to more time with Debbie, our children, and grandchildren. Our five grandchildren have in their own way made it clear (at least that is what I heard!) that there are some important things for “Papa” to do with them and I look forward to committing time for that. Debbie and I would like to travel a little, and I look forward to some backcountry hiking, a hobby I gave up in my 20s because of work. Let me know if you would like to go along with me as Debbie is not crazy about me hiking alone. I do not see her coming along on longer hikes, so give her a call—she may like the company. Also, my Gettysburg guidebook needs completion and Rio, our mini pincher, who is always patiently waiting for me to get home, deserves many long walks. I plan of course to continue ministry in a way that God directs. I look forward to the new chapter God has opened.
On the other hand, I will miss ministry here. I love the work as pastor; preaching, teaching and day-to day-involvement with you in pastoral ministry that has filled my life since 2011. During this time, we have shared many joys and successes, as well as life’s sorrows, and a few setbacks. In all I have tried to be faithful to my calling. You have loved and supported Debbie and I every step of the way. We deeply appreciate the love you have shown us. Our church is filled with strong leaders, faithful disciples, and Spirit-filled workers for the Kingdom. We have generational families that faithfully serve alongside new and gifted servants from many backgrounds. Over the years God faithfully sent the right people at the right time and He continues to do that. Look at our sanctuary on any Sunday morning and you see many new faces, here to worship and serve as God directs. These new people are a great encouragement and validate our church’s strength for the future. Our new member class, which began two weeks ago is nearly filled! We pastors are shepherds called for a season. Our job is to be faithful, love God’s people, work hard, and then pass the ministry on to a new generation. God’s work goes powerfully forward until He returns for His church!
There is much to say, but this is enough. Debbie and I do not plan to be strangers among you, but do not want to interfere in any way with the work of our new pastor. You are our church family, and we love you. In Christ we all have exciting days ahead! God bless you.
Peter addresses the elders of the church in 1 Peter 51b-4. I exhort the elders among you: not overseeing out of compulsion, but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (HCSB)
Rev. James A. Cohn