Embracing the Gift of Rest

| May 2nd, 2024

Dear Beloved Community,

Facebook told me yesterday that it was nine years ago that Amy McClure and I had become (Facebook) friends. I remember the in-person version of that so well!

I had come to First Baptist on Fifth for my call weekend in late March, and Amy, just three weeks on the job in what at that time was an interim ministry position, oriented me immediately to this beloved community. I remember standing with her in our old Fellowship Hall and having to ask her over and over, “I’m sorry, but could you tell me their name one more time?” Each time without batting an eye (or rolling them at me for that matter!), she extended compassion to me and displayed an already-deepening love of you, our new community.

Shortly thereafter, our church wisely extended a full-time call to Amy to serve as Minister for Congregational Care, and she now serves us so lovingly as Associate Pastor for Children, Older Adults, and Pastoral Care. Though her title and job responsibilities have flexed and changed over the years, Amy remains as steadfast and faithful in her ministry among us as she did when she first began. Under her careful leadership, our children’s ministry is flourishing in growth and spirit, as our kids lead in worship, learn the Bible, share in mission, and hear again and again their belovedness by God and their church. Our older adults are finding regular connection to each other, learning together each month and sharing vulnerability in ways that are nothing short of transformative. Our congregation, under the shepherding of Amy and the Deacon family ministry that she oversees, experiences her gifts of pastoral care in a hospital visit, a trip to see our home-centered members, a coffee or visit in the office, a simple call or text to check in. Our Butner Fund for mental health counseling is at the strongest since its inception in her relentless pursuit of emotional and mental well-being for the many who use it, and her thoughtful leadership has developed partnerships with so many counselors and counseling centers around town. Our hospitality ministries gather dozens for coffee each Sunday, and create fun and intentional space for all of us in churchwide fellowship. 

Beyond the work of her job description, consider any one of the pivotal seasons in our church’s life in the past 9+ years, and Amy’s inherent pastoral spirit is right at its heart. From a beautiful, intentional closing of our Children’s Center to tending all of us amidst a long and hard building project, from keeping us connected during covid to sharing how God is opening her to the discovery of herself and love for Karen during our Confession of Identity work, from welcoming new members to bidding farewell to our saints that have gone ahead, Amy pastors us with grace and care. We are all the better for it.

Starting Monday, Amy will step fully away from the rhythms and responsibilities of congregational life to enjoy six weeks of sabbatical rest. This extended break is both deserved and overdue, and it is our church’s delight to support all our pastors in seasons of needed rest and renewal. She has worked diligently to ensure her areas of ministry are staffed in her absence, thanks to many of you who have volunteered to lead. We covenant to love her well, to pray for her as she is away, and to welcome her back again in mid-June. 

Dr. Rob Saler, Director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program, says this: “to honor ministry is to strengthen it. To embrace rest is to demonstrate confidence in the energy that God can pour into revitalized pastors and congregations.” 

We’ll bless Amy in worship on Sunday as she goes, sending her toward deep renewal with confidence in the God who says in Jesus, “come to me, you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” 

Together in God’s work of Love,Pastor Emily