|A Note from Pastor Stephanie|
|There was a moment at The Land when I knew,|
I just knew,
that I had done what I had come there to do.
Maybe it was CiCi’s going away party or the Fall Fundraiser or a special service, but I remember sitting in the middle of people laughing and talking to one another and experiencing an undeniable sense of completion.
My part in The Land’s story began in 2013 before The Land was The Land.
My work has been that of tending soil that few believed (myself among them!) was capable of bearing fruit. After nine years of tending this soil, I will confess the number of times I was devastated that some decision or obstacle had led us to the end of the road is quite embarrassing.
There has been so much joy in this work but there has also been so much pain and frustration and exhaustive determination. When I think back it’s still hard to nail down what exactly I was so determined to try and do in the first place. I never felt comfortable as a risk-taker nor did I ever identify myself as a church planter. I always felt like I was crazy… like this whole idea was crazy.
But there were people counting on me. There were young vibrant creative people believing in institutions to come through and I felt a sense of responsibility to prove them right; to show them that their dreams were a possibility because the world really was a loving and magical place. I was not the dreamer but the dream defender, the taskmaster, the problem solver. I loved pulling the pieces together and figuring out how to make it all work.
And I did make it work, never alone, obviously, but in the way I understood what making it work would look like. I never understood why I felt so determined to keep going when I wasn’t even clear on what I was trying to make happen…until I was sitting in the middle of people gathered together who would have otherwise never have been a community and I knew that what was happening was what I had been trying to do all along.
It has been an incredible privilege to pastor The Land,
but it is overwhelmingly humbling to know that this privilege
is now gifted to another.
I met Aaron on a zoom call for church planters in 2019. I remember thinking that he would be a perfect fit for The Land and wishing so badly that we could bring him out to work with me with the vision of him taking my place. So, when I sat down with the District Superintendents (DS) to discuss this transition and they asked if I had any suggestions of who I thought should be the next pastor at The Land, there was no pause or second thought before Aaron’s name came out of my mouth. I didn’t suggest anyone else and we didn’t talk about it any further. I can make suggestions but it’s the Bishop and Cabinet’s discernment that makes the final decisions.
It wasn’t more than a few days before I received news that Aaron would be interested in an appointment to The Land. This was an unusually quick timeline for a potential candidate to have been identified but it turned out that Aaron had recently had a conversation with the same DS about wanting to plant a church or pastor a creative new ministry. Unfortunately, there weren’t any funds for a new church plant this year and so Aaron was offered the possibility of another interim position where he could work while he waited for funds to become available.
Aaron explained, “I wanted to plant a church and our oldest is going into 8th grade, and my wife and I didn’t want to move again. We wanted to root ourselves in a place long term, so taking another interim at a church was something I was struggling with. When the DS called me, we were on a road trip exploring other options. We wanted to move back to Colorado, but if I wanted to start a church in the future without denominational support we needed to find a more affordable place, so we were looking at places like Wisconsin, Iowa, or North Carolina. So…when the DS called about the Land I was holding back excitement because it was a place we wanted to live and a church I actually wanted to be a part of!! If the Land wasn’t an option, we would be exploring ways to allow my wife to start a clinic while I supported her until it was up and running. Now we get to live in Colorado (the most beautiful state!), while my wife explores starting a clinic in the Denver area. We are excited for that as well as to be a part of a community centered around faith, farming, and food!”
All this time, all this work and wondering what the heck I was doing, Aaron and his family were dreaming of a place exactly like The Land. It’s a realization that has swallowed me whole and knocked me to my knees with gratitude and humility. That The Land didn’t have to go in search of a pastor. There was a pastor out there waiting to serve The Land. And because of all the work we put into making The Land an appointment in the United Methodist system, a pastor has the possibility of his dreams also coming true.
My part in The Land’s story ends in 2022
but it is because of this ending that Aaron and his family
have a new beginning.
I’ve always wanted to help people, to give people hope and assurance that they belonged, that they were loved. For me, The Land was always just a gift to people I loved; a visible promise that, just like me, God loved them too. What I realized is that I tend to go all-in and overboard regardless of where I am but Aaron, Aaron is called to pastor at The Land.
Perhaps it is because I know how deeply we as clergy long to find a context where we can live out our call or because I know how difficult it has been for all of us at The Land to get to where we are today, but in this transition, this has been the greatest gift given to me…to know that because of all the work we have done another pastor will now receive The Land as a long-awaited and extraordinarily miraculous gift.