The other day I sat with an old friend. We covered topics broad and deep, caught up on our children, our husbands, our wounds, and our hopes. We laughed and wiped away tears. I love that this is a present tense friendship. We are still doing life together after all these years. This is a precious thing. We share a history of life and ministry worked out weekly in our small church. As we reminisced about the past’s shared victories and losses, I confessed to a certain longing for the familiarity and the shared history of the-long-time people. The group of people we worshiped with over the years. Many of these folks are dispersed now, some have gone on to glory. Their names and our stories will always hold a special place in my heart.
These are the folks who filled the pews but not necessarily the front row in our lives. Their fellowship brought depth and variety. These were the people who bore witness. They showed up when the babies were born, when we were sick, and when tragedy struck. They brought the casseroles. They led and they served, and they kept me honest. These were the people who taught my children’s Sunday school classes. They wrestled those cherubs through the hour, week after week, and loved them (and me) anyway. These folks served together in VBS. They saw how 80 children and 90 degrees for a week could reveal a side of me, better left hidden. These folks corrected my kids and wiped away their tears when life got hard and taught them real lessons about life. They supported us as we grew up together. They showed us the truth about ourselves, and about their lives. They showed up, gave what they had, and came back again and again. There’s real value in that.
I love my new church family, the fellowship is sweet and welcoming. These are my people. But sometimes I worry because they only know me now. Even though I am honest about these things, I fear that sometimes they think we didn’t wrestle and fall, that our children didn’t take us to the very last nerve, that life in community was easy. Because it mostly is now. Not that we don’t have our struggles, but the heavy lifting of establishing a family is behind us. And it would be easy to imagine that this is how it has always been. But it wasn’t… just ask the long-time-people.
You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 NIV
This is the letter we wrote our church to say goodbye…
To our church family,
About a year and a half ago, God began to move in our hearts that our time at FBC was coming to a close. After much prayer and counsel, we made the decision to leave First Baptist and begin attending a church much closer to home, where we can participate in the community to whom we have always felt called. In the grief of our leaving, we were not able to express our deepest love and thanksgiving to this community of faith that has supported us for over twenty years. Like Lot’s wife, we feared that if we looked back, we would lose our courage and fail to keep in step with the One who calls us to follow.
If you were hurt by our departure, please accept our deepest apologies and know that we love and value your friendship, support, and the life we have shared for many years. This church family has cared for and supported us through decades of life, growth, challenge, and change. You loved our babies in the nursery and in Sunday school. You prayed for our teens as they grew to adulthood. You saw us, cared for us, and lived life with us. You allowed us to use our gifts and to make mistakes and grow from them. You laughed with us, cried with us, allowed us into your lives, and changed ours forever. You held us individually and as a family in prayer and provided strong counsel as we have worked hard to build a life upon the Rock of our Salvation. Together we shared the very best that life has to offer, the sweetness of His Fellowship, the deep unity of His Suffering, and the joy that’s found in His Presence.
We celebrate this church’s faithfulness to God and commitment to one another as expressed in the past few years of trial and restoration. It has been a privilege to watch God carry this congregation through the fire and set it safely down on the other side. This Pastor, shepherd’s board, and congregation are living examples of love with skin on it. We have benefitted from every member of this church family and we are truly humbled to be counted among you. When people ask how things are at FBC, you can know that we celebrate Christ in you the hope of glory, and testify with you about His faithfulness. We have seen the face of God in your lives, in your love, and in your perseverance.
Not long ago, Pastor Chris asked, “do you feel like you are home?” The answer is no, but we feel called to our community, and this new church, to continue to serve God’s people. FBC will always be home, in the same way, the place and people that raised you- formed and shaped you into the person you’ve become. Keith will always be a New England boy, and Deb an Oregon girl… and we’ll both always be a part of the church home that has built hope, love and faith into our lives. Thank you, for being that church for us.
In His Name,
The Boucher Family