(Ed. note: The below has been adapted from John’s June 1 sermon, New Creations. It seemed an appropriate thank you and goodbye.)
When Rhonda and I arrived in Greensboro, I was twenty-nine years old. Rhonda and I had been married for almost four years, and Jonah, Ethan, and Daniel had not yet been born. I had been at my previous church in Charlotte for four years, long enough to get a sense of what I didn’t know about ministry but not long enough to start filling in those blanks. Some of my rough edges had been polished, but I still had a lot to learn and was not yet completely comfortable in my identity as a pastor and preacher.
As Rhonda and I unpacked our boxes, Christ Church was also welcoming a new senior pastor, Richard Randolph, and his wife, Wanda. This was an unexpected turn of events because when I had interviewed for the associate pastor position, I had thought I would be working with Susan Norman Vickers and George Thompson. A few days after my interview I called Tom Jordan (who was SPRC chair at the time) to arrange a time to visit the associate pastor's parsonage here in Greensboro and I was surprised to learn that George would be leaving Christ Church for Providence UMC in Charlotte. Welcoming one new pastor and family would be hard enough, but welcoming two new pastors and their families is quite daunting, but Christ Church rose to that challenge and I got my first glimpse into how loving this church is.
I have experienced that love time and again over these almost sixteen
years together. One of the places that I have consistently felt that love is in the
countless ways that you have encouraged me. With our move just a few
weeks away, I have been spending much of my time cleaning out and packing
my files. In this process, I came across the sermons that I have written and
preached over my time at Christ Church. Naturally I paused to read some of
them and decide if any of them are keepers. After reviewing just a couple of
them, I realized how truly loving and patient you have been with me. I look at
those early sermons and think, “I can’t believe that people leaving church on
those Sundays during my first year(s) told me that these were good sermons.
They must have been trying to love me into being a better preacher.” I mean,
wow, many of those sermons are rough. However, month after month and
sermon after sermon you loved and encouraged me, and in so doing gave me
the confidence to find my own voice as a preacher. I can never thank you enough for providing me with such a loving environment in which to grow as a preacher.
I am thankful that somewhere along the way we became more than congregation and pastor and we grew into friends. I am blessed that somewhere along the way, the staff became more than my colleagues in ministry and became my friends. Perhaps it was when all of you helped Rhonda and me welcome each of our three boys into this world and then raise them in the faith. Perhaps it was when you helped us to deal with the emotional aftermath of a miscarriage. Perhaps it was when you surrounded my family with the strong arms of your love when Rhonda had her stroke and resulting heart procedures. Perhaps it was when we worked together to support Jan and Cecil after Wade’s death or to support Susan in her fight with cancer. It might have been when we pulled together to hold up this church when the news of Jan’s unexpected move came. Regardless of exactly when it happened, I am thankful that it did.
Please know that I consider it a privilege to have served this amazing church. I am a better husband, father, and pastor for my time among you. It is my hope that I can take the lessons that I have learned here about how to be a vibrant church and an effective pastor and apply them to the church that I will serve in Eastern Pennsylvania.
- Pastor John Bletsch
The congregation is invited to John Voyáge, a special celebration for Pastor John Bletsch, on Sunday, June 15, from 9:45am to 10:45am in the Sanctuary. This will be John’s last Sunday at our church before he departs for his new pastoral appointment in Pennsylvania. Please see page 2 for details.