Dear Stonebridge Church Family,
We have some news to share with you regarding our pastoral staff. Like many in our church family whose work sometimes requires relocation, our United Methodist appointive system comes with the reality that pastors and congregations are not often yoked together for a pastor’s entire career. Appointments in the United Methodist Church are made with the following basic criteria: the stated needs and/or desires of the pastor; the stated needs and/or desires of the church; and the strategic needs of the larger connectional church (the Annual Conference). The pastor, the Staff-Parish Relations team, the District Superintendents, and the Bishop all have a voice in these deliberations, but the Bishop is the one who directs this process.
We are telling you all of this because a few days ago, Bishop McKee asked Pastor John to take a new appointment as the Senior Minister of the First United Methodist Church of Wichita Falls, effective July 1, 2017. John had not requested to be appointed to another church, nor did our leadership ask that another pastor be appointed to Stonebridge, but John’s familiarity with the Wichita Falls community, along with the specific needs of the church there led the Bishop and Superintendents to discern that John needed to be the one sent to pastor that church. John has accepted the appointment.
We were initially surprised and saddened by this news. We are personally grateful for the four years of service and ministry that John has given to our congregation. Our church has been through a long season of transformation, but we are in a healthy place. The spirit of this congregation remains steady and strong. We believe that God is doing powerful work among us. We ask you to join us in prayer for John and his family, as this new path comes at an unexpected and complicated time in their lives as well.
So what happens next? Our District Superintendent, Ron Henderson, will be working with our church’s Leadership Board in the next couple of weeks to determine the best direction for Stonebridge’s future. We are hopeful and optimistic that they will identify a new Senior Pastor who can build on the foundation of spiritual growth and servanthood that has been developing here. You can expect an announcement related to this within a few weeks. We think it is also safe to expect that Pastor Courtney will continue her role as lead pastor of The Bridge.
Because these changes will not take effect until the summer, we have time to get this transition right. We also have work to do. We will still observe the Lenten season and celebrate Easter. We will still have serving opportunities; such as All-Serve Saturday, the Juarez Trip, and the Car Show to benefit Community Lifeline. John still plans to restart our Tuesday evening and Wednesday noon men’s Bible studies. The kingdom work to which we are committed will continue, and we can put our focus and energy into that.
Our Leadership Board will share more information with you as more becomes available. In the meantime, we ask you to join us in prayer for Pastor John and his family, our Leadership Board and Stonebridge Church family, and be praying for our Bishop and District Superintendents as they walk with our church in the weeks and months ahead.
One final thought - it is very evident to us that the Holy Spirit is at work here as the energy and enthusiasm in our church has really taken off lately. May we be optimistic and hopeful about these changes, as we trust in God’s plan for our church. Change brings opportunity, and we are excited to see God work among us. We believe in the promise of Philippians 1:6 “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Grace and peace-
Jaime Worley, Leadership Board Chair
Amy Dankel, Staff-Parish Relations Team Chair