Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
My family has recently gone through a process that is familiar is some church traditions and completely alien in others. My wife and I were transferred from one appointment in a city to a new assignment in a completely different city. Fortunately, during this most recent transfer, we did stay in the same state, but it is not unheard of for officer (ministers in The Salvation Army) to be moved to another state during a transfer. While some traditions involve a similar move process, other traditions only have change in leadership through people requesting to move, leaders being removed from service, or retirement for faithful leaders. As a minister and leader in The Salvation Army, this is what we “signed up” for when we were commissioned. We know that any assignment begins a countdown of unknown length when we arrive. Our last appointment or assignment lasted 5 years with a 4 year appointment before this move. But, there are other leaders who experience lengths of stay as short as 6 months to a year depending on the individual situation. Moves are important to the life of The Salvation Army and our local corps (churches). The Army truly believes in the gifting of the Spirit in its’ officers and leaders. Every officer has been gifted in various areas of management, leadership, pastoral skills, teaching, program development, community relations, and the list goes on! Assigning officers to the right location must be done very carefully through much prayer. Fortunately, I have not been asked to make those decisions, because honestly, I would be lost!
While these transitions can be difficult for the leaders and their families, they are equally as challenging for the local congregations. The local congregations say farewell to officers who have been with them for a certain period of time and the next Sunday, they say welcome to complete strangers. To the credit of most Salvation Army congregations and other congregations like them, they are very warm and friendly. They are very patient and understanding. God has graced our tradition through this process. But, I always wonder when I am going through a situation, “What would the Bible say about this?”
The apostle Paul said goodbye to congregations all over Asia many times. During his travels, he would start a new congregation and then leave to start the work in another place. Paul’s closing words to the Church in Colosse all centered around one idea, TOGETHERNESS. From reconciliation to encouragement to oneness of mind, Paul challenges the church to bind together in love, friendship, and discipleship. We have been blessed during this last transition to welcomed with open arms by our new congregation, community, and employee team. We have been encouraged by the way they have taken us into their collective embrace and made us family.
Saying goodbye is never easy! But, God’s grace is a source of encouragement and support!
Soli Deo Gloria!
On a personal note: Storm and I deeply miss and love our friends and congregation in Albany. They allowed us to grow and learn for the last 5 years. They waited patiently as we made mistake after mistake while we grew into the leaders that we needed to be (of course, we are still learning). While we love those we have moved away from, we have also fallen for our new place of ministry. We are excited by the opportunities for service that Rome has to offer!