Thursday, March 22, 2012

A New Leaf

It was my day off and I was still in the process of moving into the parsonage in Ottumwa, Iowa.  My wife is still in Alaska, pastoring the two churches I left to come to Ottumwa First UMC.  The thought of spending more time unpacking and arranging things that will only be rearranged when my better half arrives in July was depressing; I’ve done nothing but that on my days off for a month now.  I needed a distraction.  I needed something totally different.  Nothing to do with church…nothing to do with unpacking…

Several months ago, I’d received one of those family tree programs as a gift.  For whatever reason, I hadn’t taken the time to start that process.  But, it did sound like the perfect distraction.  I thought I’d give it an hour…90 minutes tops…before my short attention span would draw me to another shiny object with which to amuse myself…

FIVE HOURS LATER…I’m looking at digital pictures of gravestones in Truro, England with my mother’s last name on them.  I’ve been captivated by digital photos of census records from 1830; bills of lading listing passengers from places like Belgium, Germany and England.  I’ve learned that one of my ancestors had a child whose place of death and burial is Boston Harbor.  Another ancestor died while guiding logs down a river (ala “Axmen”) in New Jersey.  My 9th Great-Grandfather, John Webster, was Governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1657 to 1659.  I even traced the itineration of my Great-Grand-Uncle the Rev. Frank E. Brush who was pastor of First United Methodist Church, Ottumwa (the church I now pastor) from 1895-1900.  I’ve read census and burial records of distant relatives who’d had 8 or 9 children; only 4 of which lived to be adults. 

I know none of these experiences are unique to my family; nevertheless, it is humbling.  I expect to be a grandfather for the first time in the coming 7 to 10 days…a new leaf on the family tree…the first in a new generation.  I know I will look at that new life with wonder and hope.  I wonder about the world in which s/he will live as an adult…and I will do so with more than a little fear and, yet, a good measure of hope.  I pray on the eve of his/her first grandchild’s birth decades from now this new leaf will be able to wonder with hope as well.  As did my 9th Great-Grandfather Webster nearly 400 years ago.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Where Was I...?

I apologize for the unannounced hiatus since Advent.  So…where was I?

The question has a literal answer in my case.  I WAS in Alaska.  I am NOW in Ottumwa, Iowa.  The short version goes like this…
  1. We were planning on returning to Iowa in June, 2012 due to Leila’s position with the Alaska Conference being ended and a lack of appointments for a clergy couple.  We filed our papers with the Iowa Cabinet on November 14.  On November 16, I receive a call from a Superintendent in Iowa.
  2. First United Methodist Church in Ottumwa, Iowa was in immediate need for pastoral leadership due to their pastor returning to the Philippines for a family emergency.   The Bishop and Cabinet invited me to consider a mid-year appointment to Ottumwa First. 
  3. Within days, I flew to Iowa to meet with church members and was invited to consider beginning January 1, 2012.  I asked for February 1 so I wouldn’t spend Advent and Christmas packing (which I did anyway).
  4. My appointment to First UMC, Ottumwa is announced.  Filling my position will be my former co-pastor Leila (she’s also my wife…am I moving to fast for you here?).  She and our dog Scout will remain in Alaska until June.
  5. January 4, 2012 nearly all our stuff is packed and crated to travel from Anchorage to Ottumwa.  My clothing is limited to what I can pack into a suitcase.
  6. January 30, I board a plane for Des Moines, IA.
  7. January 31, I arrive in Ottumwa and begin my pastorate the next day.
  8. The other shoe drops on February 12 when it is announced in Ottumwa and Anchorage that the Rev. Leila Disburg will be appointed as pastor at the Willard Street United Methodist Church in Ottumwa beginning July 1, 2012.
  9. Last but not least….February 14, the crates containing our belongings arrive in Ottumwa.  And, yes, all guitars arrived in the same condition they were when I packed them!

It’s amazing what God, a Bishop and a Cabinet of Superintendents can accomplish in about 85 days. 

So…not much God-talk this week, but an update.  I know in coming weeks I’ll share reflections on my 4 ½ years in Alaska as well as thoughts about coming back home to Iowa.  Perhaps, even a thought or two about the experience of being separated for 5 months from my wife of 34 years. 

And, finally, this humbling note.  My last blog was posted on December 5.  Between December 5 and now…without any new blog entry…the “hits” on my site only dropped by 30%.  It seems I’m nearly as popular when I don’t write as when I do!  Undeterred, I promise to provide some freshly ground caffeinated God-talk very soon.

Peace, Jon