Giving Thanks for Abigail Cook

| June 1st, 2023

Dear beloved community,

About this time two years ago, Kim Towles pulled me aside after worship to make sure I saw the family that was visiting and happened to sit alongside her and Chris. “They are wonderful!,” she said, squeezing my arm to be sure the “go meet them right now!” message was received.

There in the narthex that Sunday, I met Abigail, Jake, Judah, Eleanor, and Silas Cook, new to Winston-Salem for Jake’s work at Wake Forest School of Divinity and looking for a church home. That our three kids shared approximate ages and interests (and a name!), that our paths in ministry had overlapped but never intersected, that our connection was clear from the start were one thing – but that we were newly-hiring a Communications Specialist, a person tasked with telling the story of God’s work of Love through First on Fifth, and that this job description fit her gifts and interests like a glove was something else entirely. And by “something else,” I most certainly mean Spirit-led.

Over these almost two years that Abigail has served on our staff, she has been an immeasurable gift to our team and church. By every metric, her work as our inaugural Communications Specialist has led to growth and vitality, and we are experiencing now the rich and vibrant fruits of her labors. These have been busy years, as she told the stories of our Confession of Identity and 150th anniversary, of holy seasons like Lent and Easter, of a pastoral sabbatical and Congregational Conversations and outreach events and new banners and her ordination and a move to remote work and a new website underway, and of the ordinary moments that sustain us, week after week. On a personal level, Abigail’s role on our staff has buoyed me day after day, particularly because her sensibilities have turned us so firmly toward telling our story in the public sphere. She’s made me a better pastor, and our staff better ministers. These two years with her have been a joy. 

Which is why it is surely bittersweet to share with you that Abigail will soon depart from our staff to begin serving as the Communications Specialist for Eastern Mennonite School. In today’s newsletter, Abigail tells us of this new call, what it will mean for her family and their thriving in their new home of Harrisonburg, Virginia. This is such a marvelous fit for Abigail and her family, and our staff and Personnel Committee have echoed our deep gladness for this new season in their lives – even as we will miss her tremendously, yet hold such gratitude for the season we’ve shared together.

Abigail’s final day on our staff will be Sunday, June 25, where each of you will get to share your gratitude with Abigail for her tenure with us. Between now and then, her work will move full-tilt toward our new website, of which we’re still on track for launch early this fall. Abigail has graciously offered to continue working 5-10 hours a week until we’re ready to hire someone full-time, and the Personnel Committee gladly accepted! After a few weeks of transition into her new role at Eastern Mennonite School, these part-time hours will start on July 17, and will be focused almost entirely on the new website and social media. The Personnel Committee will be working closely with Abigail and me to determine how her responsibilities are covered in the transition. You’ll see some minor shifts along the way – like making a summer shift of our colorful, thick, and vibrant email newsletter from a weekly rhythm to a monthly one, with brief email updates each week on what’s most pressing. Should you have any questions, please ask them! You can direct those to me, or to our Personnel Committee co-chairs, Roper Halverson and Pat Thompson. 

Indeed for the gifts of the Spirit, who moves in and through us to knit people and church and mission in holy union, we give such thanks!

Together in God’s work of Love,

Pastor Emily