I wrote to you last week about the unusual nature of these past few weeks, which have been so in numerous ways! Sprinkled into all the fullness of June have been several experiences for me which have reminded me of the breadth of God’s work of Love to which we all have been called, and I want to share them with you to encourage us all as we travel the road together.

First was my third of four gatherings of the Convocation of Christian Leaders through Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School in Durham. Alongside 30 or so other young(ish) pastors, seminary professors, and denominational leaders, our June session explored Christian leadership without easy answers, equipping us to be adaptive leaders for a variety of challenges facing today’s Christian institutions. Part of our preparation involved writing up a case study wherein we named a quandary in our ministry contexts (whatever could I write about?!) and asked questions by which our colleagues would help us discern wisdom in our leadership. The hard work our congregation is doing regarding our facilities and mission was fresh on my mind, and these brilliant friends and ministers applauded the bold and courageous work of First on Fifth, the healthy conversations and dialogue around our process, and the sustainable path ahead we are pursuing.

Second was our time shared with CBF Field Personnel, David and Lauren Bass. Through worship and Sunday School, time with children and with seniors, David and Lauren exhibited so much of their grace and calling in full measure. Watching so many of you encourage them and pray for their ministry in Cambodia caused me to swell with pride to be your pastor, as together we are partnering to renew God’s world.

That partnering has extended to this hotel in Atlanta in which I write, the site for the 2017 CBF General Assembly. I’ve only been here a day, and already nearly every conversation I’ve had with folks has highlighted the decision we’ve just made regarding our future facilities needs and mission in the community. Even as I hear story after story of sister churches who share the same building struggles as we do, have heard so much gratitude for First on Fifth as a leading congregation in our Baptist family in many ways, but profoundly in this particular quandary around facilities and mission. Our beloved community is called a trailblazer around here, and the week has only just begun!

Add to these experiences the countless notes and emails I’ve received from fellow ministers and leaders in Winston-Salem who have offered words of love to build us up as we tackle hard things together, and the word I offer to you today is encouragement. From right down the street to around the country, our larger Christian circle is giving thanks for you, dear church, and I have received it on our behalf to now share with you!

This month and every month, I couldn’t be prouder to be your pastor, forever grateful to be on this road with each and every one of you!

Together in the work of Love,

Pastor Emily

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