When I began my ministry as a pastor nearly 40 years ago, I faced the pulpit as a daunting challenge. Being so young (a couple of months shy of 26) and inexperienced (one year as a student intern, along with 3 months of being a student chaplain in three hospitals), I saw twenty minutes of preaching as an eternity! How would I ever find enough to say in that foreboding length of time!
That first congregation I served in rural, central Ohio was so gracious and patient with me! We grew together, as they hadn’t had a pastor for quite some time, and as I was growing into the position myself. As I did, I also came to the point of marveling at how much can be found in the inexhaustible well of Holy Scripture. I came to the point of looking forward to preaching every week and, many years later, that has not changed.
After that three year pastorate, my family and I journeyed to a small community between Cincinnati and Dayton. It was ideal for us, being some fifteen or twenty minutes from our parents and Pat’s siblings in either direction. We served that congregation for sixteen years and, quite frankly, they didn’t want to see us go, even after such a considerable length of time. But we knew it was God’s will that we should depart and come to Newport.
Twenty years have passed since those days and so much ministry along with it, interacting in people’s lives in so many different ways that I can hardly remember them all (actually, I can’t). This includes everything from children’s messages and VBS, to confirmation classes, Sunday school classes and retreats, counseling appointments, visitation, preaching over a thousand sermons, and conducting baptisms, weddings and funerals. Along with all that, there have been the staff and committee meetings, and all the Session meetings (and I mean all!).
In the very midst of all this ministry, my wife Pat has been my faithful companion, earnest counselor, loving wife and ministry partner … with so many ministries of her own. Our daughters and son-in-law, and son and his family, have also been such blessings along the way, far more than I could ever say.
I have always been convinced that God has given me the heart of a pastor. There are some ministers who see themselves more as vision casters and C.E.O.’s, but I have never had that sense. But the days of my being your pastor are coming now to an end – September 30th, to be exact. No longer will I, nor am I allowed to, serve this congregation in any official capacity. Other pastors will follow after me, as it should be.
Thank you for the privilege of serving as your pastor and of being on the journey with you. May the Lord bless and keep you in your journey ahead, as you look to Him in humble dependence, and in earnest prayer.
Dr. Wm. J. Maxwell