Dear Beloved Community,
Perhaps there are few more meaningful services of worship for a pastor than that of an installation service that makes official the binding of a pastor to their congregation. This longstanding tradition is one of intention and care, where together the congregation and their new pastor make commitments for the true pattern of their life together with Jesus at the center.
I remember my installation so well, that day in September 2015 when friends and family, mentors and colleagues of mine from my most significant seasons of life joined us for worship, to help dedicate baby Annabelle and call us into beloved community with each other. It was a service of seeing and being seen, of celebration for what had been and delight in the season we had begun to share.
Today, I will join with my Dear Friends (you know these pastor friends of mine who are some of my most trusted and beloved fellow travelers on the Way!) to offer a wholehearted blessing for our friend, Scott, as he is installed as the new pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. It will be an honor to worship with this wonderful congregation and add my voice to the chorus of celebration for their new pastor.
As I’ve written my prayer, I’ve thought of you with each petition, each image, each encouragement. For this Prayer of Blessing is from me, but it is from us, from the church we are and can become together even still.
A Prayer of Blessing Upon the Occasion of the Installation of Rev. Scott Dickison as Pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi
Loving God, through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, you have gifted this world with the church: a knit tapestry, a true pattern, a shared life of your people.
For the beloved community of Northminster Baptist Church, you have created, redeemed, and sustained this people for 57 years of mission and ministry. They are yours, and you are theirs, and this world is a better, more faithful place because Northminster is in it. So as they welcome their new pastor, may they be about the work of preparing him room.
Room not just for the Dickisons, the new family among you. Room not just for Rev. Dickison, your shepherd and guide. But room for Scott and Audrey and Billy and Sid and Mac, the unique, miraculous human beings they already are, regardless of this new role.
Stir within this congregation the spirit of discovery of their new pastor and family. Give them a curiosity for what gives Scott life and what unsettles his spirit, who he loves and holds dear, what new thing he might bring among them. Unclench their minds and hearts when they naturally drift to the way things have always been. Dull their criticism (or at least keep it compassionate), and let their expectations be fair. Keep their identity both strong and gentle, sturdy enough to know and be known and supple enough to be led and changed. Remind them that the very best gift they can give to Scott is the gift of belonging: of care for him and his family alongside people with which to live and move and have their being. Let this new season be less about what Scott says or does, but more about who they can become, together. May they believe in this new beginning.
For Reverend Scott Dickison, o God, you have created, redeemed, and sustained this dear friend for 40 years of living. He is yours, and you are his, and this world is a more thoughtful and wise, faithful and true place because he is in it. So as Scott steps into this new role, may he prepare them room.
Room not just Northminster Baptist Church, the legacy and history and resources and reach of this fine institution. But room rather for her people, for Kelley and Cheryl and Mark and Barbara and John, and all who have loved and served her well.
Help him to realize that he is enough: not because of what he’ll accomplish or produce, but because of who he is: worthy, beloved, seen. Gift him with failure, so he remembers the True Source of life. Instill in him the trust that his congregation wants to know his true heart, not merely his polished, professional heart. Grant him your tender care when the work of ministry is lonely: when people leave or die, when conflict isolates and traps him in his mind. Keep his heart fixed on the Mystery of Word and words, of an enlivening Spirit and a present Creator. When the world quakes and tyrants rise and war invades and the worst happens, Scott will wonder: how can I possibly preach this Sunday? What good news could I possibly share? Yet to his aid, send Moses and Paul, Eve and Mary, Isaiah and Jesus, their protests and poetry and prophetic imagination buoying his own. Give him the wonder of a novice and the wisdom of a midwife to bring encouragement to the laboring church. May he find consolation, even as he consoles; receiving, even as he gives.
Together for Scott and Northminster Baptist Church, give these beloveds the dignity of a meaningful season shared: with curiosity and great boldness for what might be, patience and understanding for what is, gentleness and honor for what has been. Gift them with belonging to one another, to their neighborhood and its citizens who aren’t in these pews. Take their witness to Jackson and Mississippi and the South and this nation so hungry for a glimpse of beloved community. Fashion them into a people undeterred by the kingdoms of this world, unashamed of the good news, unafraid in their bold love of God and neighbor and boundless compassion for all people. May their hearts be supple when conflicts arise, and may they forgive each other into something truer and more beautiful than before. Spur them onto gospel work that is “small enough to do, and big enough to matter.” Keep them whole-hearted, whole-bodied, whole-spirited, full of grace and truth. Make it clear to them that this is Christ’s church, and they are but stewards of it. Through all the changing seasons of life, give them strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Remind them that “what they need is here.”
As they go, now hear this:
May their table be long and wide and crowded.
May their baptismal waters bear infinite blessing and exquisite memory.
May this pulpit be free and faithful.
May these pews be full of squirming children and wise elders, of doubting saints and hopeful cynics, of the people they’ve been and the people they’ll become.
May their grounds be a threshold between who they are and where they’ll go.
May their worship orient them to you and extend into the worship that is their very lives.
May their fellowship mirror the true pattern of Jesus.
May their meetings be robust and creative, heavy on possibilities and light on policies.
May their lessons spark with new learning and discovery.
May their playground fill with delight and laughter.
May their youth house remind all who find their home within of who and whose they are.
May their hands fill with meaningful work.
May their feet go to the margins, the suffering, the confined to find Jesus there.
May their hearts be turned toward the world you so love.
May their minds be the same mind in you as in Christ Jesus.
May their ordinary life together become extraordinary living together because of you, the living God.
May their joy be precise.
We pray these things in the name of Jesus, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forevermore, Amen.
Together in God’s work of Love,