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WC-UMC

Walker Chapel UMC

Sanctuary Open for Prayer: Sunday, 9:00 am
Adult Study: Sunday, 9:30 am
Worship: Sunday, 10:30 am
Children's Sunday School: Sunday, 10:45 am

 

 


June 2019


Suggested reading: Romans 10:14-21


I once heard Bishop Robert M. Blackburn tell of a news broadcaster who—at the end of his broadcasts— signed off with the words, “Thanks for listening.” They seemed appropriate given how broadcasters depend as much upon their listening audiences as listeners depend upon broadcasters for their news. Over time, a symbiotic relationship develops.


A similar bond exists between preachers and congregations. Preachers depend upon their congregations to listen as they attempt to share the Word of God, while congregations, in turn, depend upon their preachers for the same.


Paul sensed this in his letter to the Romans when he wrote: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” A few sentences later, Paul added: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”


So as I draw my ministry at Walker Chapel to a close and retire from full-time active service after forty-two years, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for listening. It is not easy to hear the same person preach week after week, month after month, and year after year. The task can be all the more difficult when your own theological and political views are at variance with the preacher’s. That is why I am so grateful for the hearing many of you have given me.


In turn, it should be acknowledged how the preacher’s task is not an easy one either. He or she must carefully read and study the Word, then draw conclusions as to how this Word best speaks to the present age by employing all the skills acquired in seminary and afterward. The result may not always be what people expect. As others before me have observed, sometimes it is the preacher’s responsibility to comfort the afflicted as well as to afflict the comfortable! Hence Paul’s comment in 2 Timothy: “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.”


That is all the more reason why preaching should be understood as not so much a monologue as a running dialogue between a preacher and his or her congregation, for it is not the sermon itself that is so important as the conversation it evokes. People misunderstand preaching when they see it as only an opportunity for the preacher to vent or to espouse his or her own personal opinions. True preaching always begins, never ends, a conversation about God’s Word.


I also want to thank you for affording me the opportunity to be your pastor. Although we have only been together four short years, a lot has happened. Children have been baptized, young people confirmed, couples married, and loved ones buried. We have joined Wesley Theological Seminary’s field education program, helped prepare two interns for ministry, held two highly successful Stop Hunger Now campaigns, sponsored several timely as well as informative community forums, and contributed generously to several of Arlington County’s support services. This is in addition to all the ministries and missions Walker Chapel has supported both domestically and worldwide through the United Methodist Church.


So, again, thank you for your partnership in the gospel. Now I pray you will extend this same graciousness and hospitality to the Rev. Alley-Grant. My final Sunday in the pulpit will be June 16. After that, I will be on official leave until the end of the month in order to give the church time to complete some routine maintenance and renovation at the parsonage. James Wright will lead Sunday services on June 23. Rev. Alley-Grant’s first Sunday will be June 30.


Yours in Christ,

Mark