From Announcement to Anticipation

From Announcement to Anticipation

Last Sunday morning I was on a plane back from a family trip. When I took my phone out of airplane mode at 10:30 am, I already had six text messages from people saying, “Did you hear the news?” I really wanted to respond, “What news?” and see how people navigated telling me via text that the Pastor Search Committee announced that Ellis White is their recommendation for our new Senior Pastor at Chapel Hill. However, I knew the news, and Joey and I were delighted to hear the cheers and whistles as we listened to Pastor Search Committee Chair Scott Griffin’s announcement during the 10:30 online service. 

The other question I got quite a few times and continue to get is, “So, what do you think of the news?” And I love getting to answer that question. The short answer is that I am very excited! I can’t wait to see the work that the Lord does in this new season at Chapel Hill under Pastor Ellis’s leadership. I am excited to continue to serve at Chapel Hill.

When we are called to pastoral ministry, we talk about how it is both an inner call and an external call. The person feels a call to ministry, and that call is confirmed by the church Session, the church, the Presbytery, and other outside voices. I watch a lot of pastoral searches as a member of our Presbytery’s Ministerial Committee, the group of people who test candidates for ordinations and approves the call of pastors. I get to see firsthand the process of external call. And I get to see that inner work of call through the process of examination and approval.

It was a very special thing to get to watch both the external calling and inner call for Pastor Ellis and for my home church. The members of our Pastor Search Committee at Chapel Hill were so prayerful and diligent in their work; they read applications, listened to sermons, and prayed…and prayed…and prayed! When it came time to decide, they knew they could move forward with confidence in their recommendation. Our Ministerial Committee did the same work of praying, discerning, and approving the recommendation of the PSC…although, I had to tell the MinCom that it was impossible for my “aye” vote to be unbiased in this particular situation!  

For the inner call, I usually get to hear from candidates through their examination process. However, in this case, it was different. I have worked with Pastor Ellis for 10 years now, before either of us were called to be pastors at Chapel Hill. I have watched as he has grown in his leadership and in his walk with Jesus. Over the last year and a half, I have watched as he has continually surrendered himself to God’s will for Chapel Hill and for his life, even if that might have meant he was NOT the person Chapel Hill called to this role. Over and over, he has said that he wants what is best for the church. Even as he felt this call to the role of Senior Pastor at Chapel Hill, he continued to reflect the words of Christ, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Now we find ourselves in the final steps of that process of calling Ellis White as our Senior Pastor. And just like I have been able to play a part in this process of calling, all of you do as well. If you are a member of Chapel Hill, you are part of that process of external call in your participation in our Congregational Meeting next Sunday, May 5, directly following the 10:30 am worship service (about 11:45; and if you go to the 9:00 am service, we’ll have a free continental breakfast in the Gathering Place so you can stay, eat something, and visit with friends until the meeting begins). 

I hope that you will follow the example of our Pastoral Search Committee and our Ministerial Committee and commit to praying and participating in this upcoming vote. Of course, you already know my bias and I hope that you will also respond like the PSC and MinCom in your voting. This is an incredibly important moment in the life of our church, and you get to be a part of it! 

It is an exciting time to be at Chapel Hill. Like I said at the beginning of this blog post, I can’t wait to see where the Lord takes us under the leadership of Pastor Ellis. We’ve already started the prayer, planning, and preparation for where God is calling us.  

And I want to end by honoring the legacy of Pastor Mark. Mark Toone has been my pastor for most of my life, since I was about eight years old. It is hard to imagine Chapel Hill without Mark. He would be the first to say that he thinks we are going from strength to strength. We all recognize that this strength is through the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the incredible leadership and example we’ve had in Pastor Mark. Even as we look to the future, we also recognize that it is through Pastor Mark’s leadership that Chapel Hill is a thriving church. As we celebrate what is to come, we will also spend a lot of time celebrating the legacy of our Pastor Mark.  

See you this Sunday as we hear our soon-to-be Senior Pastor preach, celebrate the sacrament of baptism, and welcome new members to the church. See you at 10:00 am for our all-church family worship service! 

Pastor Julie