Dear friends…

It seems as though it has been a long time since I have written to you in this format. Our monthly newsletter (and our website, knowing that some connect with PB UMC in this way) are our primary modes of communication, especially because we are no longer able to gather in person.

Yes, it was back in mid-February the last time I wrote for our newsletter/website; and so much has taken place since then.

I am often mystified at how the Spirit speaks to us in prescient ways, and yet some of what I noted back in February (and published in the March edition of the Beach Breeze) can be read with renewed vision today.

I believe that connection and community are a critical part of our faith… What more can we do together? How can we grow in our faith and discipleship, in our presence in—and service to—the Pacific Beach community? How can we look even beyond our own congregation toward cooperation and collaboration with other churches to do new things in new ways and reach new people?

It can feel easy to isolate ourselves out of fear rather than to allow our loved ones and our faith community to see and acknowledge our authentic selves; but by courageously opening our hearts, I believe we find new strength and new hope. In the same way, it can feel easy for churches to separate our congregations into silos rather than to cooperate and collaborate in fresh expressions of faith; but in doing so, I believe we can find new strength and new hope.

It is after having written this that we found ourselves unable to worship in person together. In this realization, we invited the community of St. Mark’s UMC to join us. Based on feedback from a number of PB and St. Mark’s members, we are enjoying this time of worship together as congregations in our connectional system.

A difficulty of our connectional system is that sometimes our Pastors are moved to other congregations. I would be ignoring the “elephant in the room” if I did not address this here. If you had not already heard or seen the announcements read in Worship on April 5th and April 19th and distributed by email on those same dates, it is Bishop Hagiya’s intention to appoint me as the Lead Pastor of La Jolla UMC as of July 1st of this year. This will also be a time of welcome as PB UMC welcomes Rev. Lori Leopold as the new Lead Pastor for this congregation.

Several questions have been asked about this transition that I would like to address here. A number of PB UMC members have expressed wonder and even frustration that an appointment change can come at a time like this. It is true that this timing is incredibly difficult. Even so, the La Jolla congregation’s Lead Pastor is retiring and they would be left with a gap in leadership unless someone were appointed to take on that role. The opening at La Jolla has been public for some time, and any Pastor in our Annual Conference could have submitted their name for consideration by the Bishop and the Cabinet. I did not submit my name for this (or any other) position, but know others who did.

I have also heard the rumor that I have been wanting to leave for some time. This is absolutely untrue. I don’t know where this came from. Each year before the fall Charge Conference, SPRC committees and Pastors are asked their preference in the appointment process. This year—and every year of my tenure at PB UMC—your leadership has asked that I remain with this congregation and I have asked the same.

Some have noted that this move was quite sudden. I agree. In my time as a Pastor and previously in church leadership, I have never seen an appointment take place a quickly as this. I am not privy to the conversations that take place between the Bishop and the Superintendents, so I cannot say why this is the case here.

Finally, dear friends, I want to seek out God’s light in this difficulty, and in doing so I see two rays of hope. First is that I think Rev. Lori could be exactly the right Pastor for PB UMC in this time. While it is absolutely untrue that I have been wanting to leave, I have felt discouraged that we have continued to experience a decline in worship attendance over these past several years. I have privately wondered if another leader might be a better fit for the needs of PB UMC than what I have been able to bring. Perhaps this congregation needs an ear when I am an eye; perhaps this congregation needs a hand when I am a foot (see 1 Corinthians 12).

Another hopeful possibility may be found in the strategic vision of ongoing collaboration between congregations. We have been worshiping with St. Mark’s UMC, who will be receiving Rev. Darin Arntson as their new Pastor on July 1st. This is a familiar name to many of us as Rev. Darin has a connection with PB UMC. Some members of PB are already familiar with Rev. Lori because she is deeply connected with the La Jolla UMC congregation. With my move to La Jolla, what possibilities might we envision between our three congregations? Yes, each of us will need to connect specifically and intentionally with the churches to which we are appointed. This is necessary. So what new ways of being in ministry can be dreamed as we build relationships?

Friends, everything has changed and is changing. I believe the Spirit is alive and at work in this time. May we be guided to love and relationship.

Pastor Bob