Hail and Farewell is a military tradition which allows units to recognize and honor the comings and goings of people. As one person leaves, another comes in to fill the position.
Things don't stop because of a Farewell. Things continue because there is a corresponding Hail.
Our own congregation has been going through a "Hail and Farewell" time.
In December we said Farewell to Pr. Dianne Loufman and Hail to Pr. Scott Lee.
In March we said Farewell to Pr. Lee and Hail to Pr. Barbara Melosh.
In the next two weeks we say Farewell to Pr. Melosh and Hail to Pr. Jason Churchill.
In the next months we may say Farewell to congregation members who decide the new pastor is not a good fit for them, and Hail to others who decide to give St. Stephen’s a try.
These are not endings and beginnings. They are goodbyes and hellos. Transitions not doors.
Through it all, St. Stephen’s has and will continue to move forward.
We’ve continued with established activities such as Empty Bowl Dinner, a presence at Cool Springs Farmers Market, supporting the food pantry, Stewardship planning, and preparing Hilltop backpacks.
We’ve moved forward with new things: congregation members leading Bible studies, introducing online payment options, a prayer group, recognizing our graduating seniors, and inviting New Jerusalem Baptist Church to share our worship space.
The Bible is full of stories about Hails and Farewells. Stories about well-known people such as Noah and Moses and David leaving the scene, often to be replaced by people whose names we don’t remember. But the story of God’s people continued, they moved forward.
There are many New Testament references about continuing:
…the word of God continued to advance (Acts 12:24)
…urged them to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43)
…they continued proclaiming the good news (Acts 14:7)
…encouraged them to continue in the faith (Acts 14:22)
There are more, but it’s significant that these all come from the book of Acts which talks about the birth of the Christian church. They always moved forward. As martyrs such as St. Stephen lost their lives, others come forward to take their places.
The congregation of St. Stephen’s has been able to continue in the faith during our time of transition the last few months. And we will continue in the faith as we welcome Pr. Churchill.
With Farewells we leave behind our friends and families, and those things that are familiar to us. With Hails we celebrate the excitement of new discoveries and new relationships and new expectations.
May the whole congregation be filled with the excitement of the next step of our journey in faith.
- Ann Warner