“Miss Erin, you have a lot of friends.”
Rachel, age 5
Sunday was my last day on pastoral staff at Grace Vineyard. I started attending Grace at age 9 or so. I started working there four and a half years ago. I seinfielded the end of my time at Grace, and perhaps that’s the best way to transition: when things are going well. So on Sunday I took the stage one last time, mostly to say thank you.
I did so with characteristic and oh-so-mockable hand gestures. At Grace I learned a lot about leadership. I learned (and will continue to learn) what it means to be trusted with people. I learned how to take risks. I tried to look people in the face and see the image of God in them. I tried to love well, because that’s my best understanding of how to live this faith I believe. Jesus loved and loves; so we love. Some days are better than others.
Sunday ended up being completely overwhelming for me in the best possible way. My family was there. Many friends were there. And people celebrated. And they cried. And I was allowed to see such tangible evidence of the fact that I am loved that it still makes me tear up thinking about it. I know grace is real because of the people at Grace and the way they have invested in me and believe in me and trust me. They’ve given me the good stuff of life.
Bob, the lead pastor at Grace and my now-former boss, stood on stage with me Sunday and said a lot of good things I struggle to believe about myself, but because I trust Bob, I am choosing to believe them. That is one way of loving a person well: telling her the truest truths about who she is, whether she believes them or not. Bob gave me a wide field to work out how to do the things I thought would be good for Grace in regards to young adults and going to Mexico. He ignored the conservative Texas church struggle to allow women who can to lead. And he is like family to me now.
Robin, the worship pastor, had a few things to say too. I’ve known Robin since I was a little kid, longer than some of his kids have been alive. His oldest son is one of my best friends. We have shared a lot of life. When I started learning to play the guitar as a teen, Robin patiently allowed me to be around, to play with the band at church. He taught me that if mistakes were going to be made, they might as well be made loud so everyone could hear them. That lesson translates beyond music.
Back in February, I got to officiate a wedding (which I also got to photograph). It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. Through the years, though, I got to baptize my first best friend (Griff, then 7) a couple years ago, and to dedicate my second best friend’s baby girl. A lot of teams went to Mexico with me. A lot of people participated in small groups and feeding the homeless and lots of other things. I think what I loved best about being a pastor was seeing how trying to live like Jesus produces life. Everywhere, and beautifully.
My job description has changed. I love that the last day at Grace was such a celebration, full of hugs and love and laughter and tears. I am overwhelmed with just how celebrated I feel still. And I am excited to see what happens next. Here’s the card Griff drew me for Sunday. Of all the cards and words I received, his is the one that I love most of all.
Thanks, Grace Vineyard, for loving me well. What a story we share.