A Letter from Rev. John Edgerton on his Departure from Old South
Beloved members of Old South Church,
I write today to share a significant announcement. The Pastoral Nominating Committee of First United Church in Oak Park Illinois has selected me as the candidate to be their next Lead Pastor. On June 23rd, I will preach at First United and the congregation will vote on my call among them. My intention is to accept that call and to begin as their Lead Pastor just after Labor Day. This would mean that my last Sunday at Old South would be August 11th.
My overwhelming emotion as I reflect on my ministry among you is gratitude. When I first walked through the doors of Old South, it was Thursday November 8th, 2011. I was working temp jobs in Chicago to pay the bills and I had come to Boston to attend a conference Old South was hosting. The conference kicked off with Jazz Worship and the service was like nothing I had ever experienced. Full of energy and joy, spirit and prayer, creativity and tradition, communion and saxophone-I drank it in like one who had been wandering in the desert. If someone had told me that night that I would be spending the next seven years as one of your ministers, I wouldn't have believed something so wonderful was possible.
Because of this place, I have had the chance to do amazing things: pray alongside the dying, preside at gravesides, walk in the Pride Parade, march in protests, travel on mission trips, lead the US Senate in Prayer, get arrested in the US Senate for civil disobedience, help open Boston Warm, travel to the Holy Land, represent Old South in interfaith gatherings with GBIO, watch in wonder as we distributed 7,000 scarves in one weekend, battle a real-estate developer for more affordable housing, officiate marriages, preach at ordinations, buy a house, welcome a daughter, baptize dozens of children and a fair number of adults, anoint the sick, preside over communion too many times to count, laugh more often and more deeply than anyone has a right to while getting paid in the bargain. My heart overflows with gratitude to look back over it all.
Being a part of this church is truly life changing. But you knew that already, didn't you? Old South, you are truly a blessed people, a life-changing people, a world-changing people. When I depart from this place, I will take so much with me.
I am committed during the time remaining in my ministry with you to do what I can to ensure an orderly and smooth transition and for my leave-taking to be a good one. To that end, I have kept the leadership of the church informed about this process, and sought to give sufficient notice. And while my departure will undoubtedly cause some disruption, I know it also presents opportunity. I have full confidence you will navigate this transition wisely as I have seen you do many times before. Below, you'll find a letter from Nancy as well, detailing a bit more about our how church leadership - clergy and lay - are planning to navigate the coming months.
With love and gratitude,
Rev. John Edgerton
Old South Church in Boston
LETTER FROM THE SENIOR MINISTER
Dear Old South Church,
In the words of Ecclesiastes, there is a time for every matter under heaven; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to search and a time to let go.
In 2011 this church searched, found, and called John Edgerton to serve as Associate Minister. For these past 7 1/2 years, we have danced together as John's leadership deepened our work with GBIO, Boston Warm, affordable housing, community organizing, prison and immigration ministries, as a UCC Daily Devotionals author, and more. We danced as John and Heather bought a home, put down roots among us and, not least, became parents. Today, with John's announcement, we enter upon a new season of goodbyes and Godspeed; a season to celebrate John's leadership; a season to honor his call to serve a church in his home town of Chicago, surrounded by his family.
Shortly, at Council's direction, we will also turn to the task of searching again. Such is the ebb and flow of our life together. Such is the lot of a calling, teaching, and sending church. We raise up leaders and send them out into the world. It is as bitter-sweet as it is inevitable.
There is much in flux right now. We have an Interim Associate Minister. We just received the resignation of our Associate Minister. In July, we shall welcome our Urban Pastoral Minister, Amo Ngoepe. Amo recently graduated with an M. Div. from Union Theological Seminary in NYC. She has been working with Middle Collegiate Church in NYC where she is a member in discernment for ordination with the United Church of Christ. Amo hails from South Africa. Her work with us (and with City Mission) for the next two years is funded by the Lilly Endowment. In addition, we expect this two-year Lilly-funded position to be renewable for another two or four years after that.
Such a time of change and transition demands that we pause, take stock, look at the whole picture, and enter our own season of discernment. With two vacancies and an incoming Urban Pastoral Minister, it is time to entertain new ideas. To this end, I have been meeting with our Moderator, Deb Washington, and Vice-Moderator, Phil Stern, to discuss how to move forward. Your Church Council will continue that conversation this summer. As always, as this unfolds, we will make opportunities for input and ideas from our members. As always, we trust in the providence and guidance of God: Qui transtulit sustinet (God, who brought us this far, continues to sustain us). Amen and amen.
Please mark your calendars for August 11th that we might thank and fete and celebrate John's ministry.
Warmly - Nancy
Nancy S Taylor
Senior Minister & CEO
OLD SOUTH CHURCH IN BOSTON