Something big is going down, and I'm not sure what it all means yet.
Wednesday night Gregg came home to find me in the kitchen, drew me close and asked if we could go out for dinner. I said matter of factly, "We just went out to eat yesterday and I already started dinner". He let me go and said "okay", then took a deep breath and said "Pastor Dan (our senior pastor) resigned today". I just stared at him in disbelief with my mouth hanging open, trying to figure out if he was really serious. I said, "what??" He repeated what he had just said and I could see he was not joking. "Now do you want to go out?"
Still in a state of shock, I turned off the stove and asked him the reason Dan would resign. Gregg said to get ready first and he'd tell me on the way to the restaurant. He explained that the pastor felt like he was preventing the church from growing the way He sensed God was leading it to. Our city has been steadily increasing in population over the years, but during this time Covenant has just maintained the status quo. He feels inadequate to be its leader at the size it's at now- almost 1,000 people- and the responsibilities & demands of his job have already taken their toll on his marriage. I know what a fraction of that feels like, having to "give up my husband" on occasion for the ministry; I can't imagine what it's like for Beth to have to do that all the time.
He's also been the only senior pastor Covenant has ever had, so this is a huge deal. Over Wednesday and Thursday, he met with all the members of church staff one by one to let them know and on Sunday he'll announce it formally to the congregation. An email went out to everyone saying that the early service is cancelled, so that "all the members of the body can be present for an important event". A committee has already been formed to find a new pastor.
Gregg said Pastor Dan apologized for having us move down here and now essentially, bailing on us. He told him how much he appreciated all the work he's done for the church so far and said he didn't know what this means for his position. But he added that the way he sees CPC heading, it will continue to have a great need for a very strong technical ministry. So Gregg is like, 95% sure that even with the pastor leaving, his job is still secure. We are confident that God is in control and has seemed to arrange different people within the church recently in order to move it forward & see His plan accomplished.
Still, it's going to be a big shock to the congregation and I'm not sure what's going to happen. It's a little un-nerving. I've heard horror stories of churches losing their senior pastor and falling to pieces over it and never recovering. Gregg sees the change as a positive one mainly, but his heart is heavy for Pastor Dan and for the church as it undergoes a major transition. He said Dan told him he doesn't know where he's going from here, if he'll ever preach again. He and his wife will stick around until May at least, so that their youngest daughter can finish high school, and then move away.
Obviously, this sort of thing can never happen at a "good time" but the same week as the Harvest Party, one of our biggest outreaches, and less than two months before the Christmas season ramps up? To make matters worse, Gregg noticed that the youth pastor's office was almost completely cleared out. He said, "I hope I'm wrong and it's just for a redecoration, but we might have a double resignation or a firing to deal with". Tomorrow is the annual church picnic, of all things, and we have to be very careful not to allude to the fact that we know anything. Last night at worship rehearsal, someone on praise team commented that Pastor Dan looked awful and wondered aloud if he was sick, saying that they should pray for him. Gregg looked over at the music director, like "oh no". But it turned out he really didn't have a clue. They prayed and that was that.
I hung out with some of the girls from our small group last night, and it was kind of weird not to share this huge piece of information in our conversations. We had a great time eating and chatting, and I feel a lot closer to them now. That's what I've been wanting- some good old fashioned girl talk. We met at Sarah's house and she showed us the baby's bedroom. If everything goes okay, in February they'll be able to go out there to pick him up.
So after a tense few days already, we have today and tomorrow to get through still. Basically, as morbid as it sounds, we're just waiting for the ax to fall on Sunday. It's going to be a very emotionally charged morning and I'm sure there won't be a dry eye in the congregation when it's over. I will say that I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Pastor Dan, removing himself from leadership so that God's will can be done. That takes a lot of humility and submission. It's an excellent example for the rest of us.