Psalm 37:5 Commit your ways to the Lord; put your trust in the Lord, and see what God will do.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with sadness that I write to inform you that I have accepted the call to serve as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Long Valley, NJ and am therefore resigning as pastor of Saint Matthew. I met with our Congregation Council on October 8 to share this news. My last Sunday will be November 4, 2018.
Let me share with you some reasons for this move. Last year, while moving my now elderly parents to northern New Jersey, it became clear that I needed to reside closer to them in order to share caregiving with my sister in the years to come. An opportunity arose, and so I will be serving a congregation that is only 25 minutes from their home.
The past 13 years have been some of the happiest in my life, and serving as pastor at Saint Matthew has been one of the reasons. I never imagined how much joy and growth I could experience in serving such a gifted, faithful, and caring congregation. I’ve never served a congregation for so long – it would be 13 years this December – and it has been deeply satisfying to welcome into Confirmation this autumn the babies that I baptized in my first year at Saint Matthew.
To be sure, after 13 years, even while the blessings of affection and trust have deepened, a pastor and congregation can also experience a sense of sameness. In the past few years, I may not have been quite as energetic or sharp as in my first few years at SMLC. My hope is that, eventually, the experience of a new pastor might create a deep sense of energy and renewal, as it might also do for me in a new call.
Please understand that once a pastor leaves a congregation, the ELCA recommends that I would not communicate with parishioners nor return to officiate at baptisms, weddings, funerals, and the like. This recommendation is often experienced as emotionally difficult by congregation and pastor; but in the big picture it will be helpful for our health and well-being; so that both can begin a new chapter in our ministries. I pray that no one will make any such request of me because it will be very painful to have to say no. This also means that I will not be Facebook friends with St. Matthew parishioners after I leave.
Here are the details for my leaving: My last Sunday will be November 4, 2018, which allows me to participate in the Affirmation of Baptism for our Confirmation students on October 28th. Plus, I would like to preside at All Saints Sunday. After that, I will take several weeks of vacation before starting in Long Valley. I’ve set aside adult forum on 10/21 as “Ask the Pastor” at which I will also share some information on how the NJ Synod oversees the process to find a new pastor.
Tim and I realize that it will be very difficult saying goodbye to you and our life in Riverton. I suspect it will also be difficult for the congregation. But then again, we do have an eternal Shepherd who will be a constant guide and comforter. This crucified and risen Shepherd promises to bring life out of death, and beginnings out of endings.
May we all cling to Christ, the Good Shepherd, in this time of transition and always.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Ingrid Wengert