e-letter 5/3/19

Last Sunday was officially “announcement Sunday” here in the Florida Conference, the day when pastors who are being moved and churches whose pastors are moving can officially announce where they are going and churches can officially announce through the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, who their new pastor will be. That said, I’m so very pleased to announce that I, along with Pastor Allee, and Pastor Augie, have been reappointed for another year of ministry here at Suntree UMC. In other words, we aren’t going anywhere, and all three of us are all incredibly grateful to share that!


I remember having to share the news last year that Pastor Rob would be leaving and that Pastor Allee would be joining us as our new associate pastor. It is always hard to say goodbye to pastors who are loved and that have been with us in the ups and downs of life and with whom we have shared so much. Pastoral transitions are also always a time of anxiety, as you wonder how things will go with the new pastor. Will you connect with them? Will they bring the gifts that are needed for our ministry? Will they be a good fit for the church? I know those questions were swirling around here back in 2015 as you were saying goodbye to Revs. John and Terri Hill and the questions were back last spring as Rob began to say his goodbyes. They are very understandable, real human questions. And it’s not just the congregation who has these questions. We pastors have similar questions as well as we move into new places of ministry.


But God is so amazingly good. How blessed we are that Bishop Carter and the cabinet appointed Allee Willcox to Suntree UMC. What amazing gifts of joy, passion for ministry, insight and leadership she has brought to Suntree and to numerous ministries. She is an absolute blessing to the ministry of Suntree. And then in the Fall, we were blessed to be able to welcome Augie Allen as an appointed, licensed Local Pastor, further expanding some of his responsibilities. We are excited to celebrate with Augie as he graduates from Asbury Seminar with his Master of Divinity degree on May 11. Soon he will begin the paperwork to move forward for commissioning towards eventual ordination in the Florida Conference UMC. Augie has been a tremendous champion in leading the outreach ministries through which Suntree UMC is making a kingdom difference in this community.  

Of course, last summer brought more transitions as we sent Will Kendust off to seminary, (by the way, Will is doing awesome there!), Michelle Garrett joined our youth ministry staff, Ulrike Gonzalez joined us as our part time Coordinator of Welcome and Lay Ministry, and Mike Mayes joined us as Director of Worship Arts. In each of these transitions we have been blessed as God has provided Christ centered, kingdom minded folks to serve in the ministry of Christ here at Suntree.

Again, God is so good! And the ministry of Christ in this place is growing every day, as our amazing staff partners with you, the amazing, gifted and committed laity of Suntree, to do God’s work of sharing the love and grace of Jesus with this community and beyond. I’m so excited about the work that is going on right now in our new “Grow” team, which is discerning our next steps to provide ongoing faith formation and discipleship for every stage of life. I’m excited about the work that is going on in our mental health task force, which is developing our next steps in seeking to break the stigma of mental illness in the church and community. During the Fall, a new visual arts team was created that is now assisting with visuals in the worship center and sanctuary for worship. In June we will be hosting a Fresh Expressions Spark Day which will help us to begin to dream about new and exciting ways to connect with unchurched or de-churched folks in the community for spiritual conversation and connection. All these new initiatives are the result of our 4D Vision Plan and are happening because of the growing number of Suntree servants who are finding new and exciting ways to plug into ministry and use their gifts in ministry for the Kingdom.


All this is to say that I’m so incredibly blessed and grateful to continue to serve alongside all of you and this amazing staff team in mission and ministry in this place, at this time. God is so good. And God is doing great things in and through this church. All of you, combined with a power of the Holy Spirit, make all this possible. I thank you and I thank God for the amazing joy and privilege of serving Christ in this community.


I look forward to seeing you this Sunday in worship as we continue in our “Jesus Is…” message series. In this series we are reflecting on the different lens through which we see and experience the power of Jesus in our lives. This week we will be looking at the story of Jesus calming the storm as it is found in Mark 4:35-41 and thinking about the power of Jesus to calm the inevitable storms in our own lives. We will also be sharing in the sacrament of holy communion. So come, be refreshed and be renewed in the presence of the living Christ as we gather in worship and around the table of grace. God is so good!


Grace and Peace,