Letter from Pastor Tony July 20, 2018

July 18, 2018

To the Family of Christ at Arlington Community Church UCC

Nina Harmon and I write to announce that I have been called by the Holy Spirit to join the staff of the national setting of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio, as the Minister for Committee on Ministry Development and Leadership. I will be starting on October 1, 2018, and over the next few months Darrell and I will be looking for housing and getting ready to move to Cleveland, Ohio. My final day as the Minister of Arlington Community Church will be sometime in September, to be announced in the coming weeks.

Eight years ago, led by God, the search committee and I began the dance of being called into community together. In those intervening eight years, our entire community has changed tempos many times, sometimes moving to a quick-step and other times rhythmically swaying to a slow beat of life together. We have sung a variety of melodies from praising God to crying out in grief, remembering a long tradition of musical types and tentatively trying new forms. Many people have left the dance floor to continue in the eternal dance with God, many people have joined us in the dance, and some have taken a turn on the floor and then moved along to another party. Now it is my turn to leave this dance to join another.

Eight years ago we were a community with few long-term visions; now we are a proud people with purpose as both a community center and a center of the community. We know we are called to steward creation, build a just society, and live our faith as a verb. Together we have written new By-Laws, had an almost complete staff turn-over, became a solar congregation, and faithfully participated in New Beginnings, which led us to approving a new Vision and Mission statement. We developed a plan, Vision 2020, that will continue to improve the facility over the next years. We did all of this as a community of Christ, with input from various voices, paying attention to each other’s passions and gifts, and the presence of the Holy One dancing with us, holding us, swaying with us, leading us, and choreographing our next moves.

The Holy One continues to hold, guide, and urge us on as we dance on to sweet, sad, celebratory, and soulful music. Even as we are called to dance with new partners, I will continue to love you, as many of you will continue to love me. While I am honored and humbled to be asked to join the national staff, I am more than a little scared of what lies ahead of me. Your emotions may be mixed, too; as we celebrate our accomplishments together, you may also wonder what will happen next.

Over the next few months, it will be necessary for us say good-bye to one another, and after the final good-bye, I will need to have no contact with you for some time. While it is appropriate for us to follow each other from a distance, and I will celebrate and mourn with you from Cleveland as life’s dance takes friends and family in and out of the circle, I will not be available for any of the day-to-day needs of ACC. This is part of the covenant we clergy make with the United Church of Christ. It allows the next pastor to form bonds with you that are needed to lead a community, you as a congregation to reflect on our time together without interference from me, and for me to start a new ministry without being distracted by the needs of Arlington Community Church. I will continue to serve as your pastor.

The ACC By-Laws are very clear on this transition time: The Council is to appoint an Interim Search Team to find an Interim Pastor, and through the interim period a Search Team will be formed to find your next settled pastor. Through all of this time, the Church Council will be working with Rev. Davena Jones, our Associate Conference Minister, to assure as smooth a transition as possible.

I have enjoyed and grown from our time on the dance floor together. I pray that you have as well, and that the dance will continue on.