The Blue Ridge Back to the Rockies

A week ago, Linda and I pulled away from the parsonage at 186 Melrose Avenue, Tryon, NC.

The church is ready to receive its new settled minister this coming week, and I must say, they’re ready. For as much as they loved the things we did together during the interim period this last 11 months, what they really wanted was their next settled minister.

And as much as I loved the fun of getting to know this new group of people in the Blue Ridge foothills—challenging old assumptions, playfully experimenting with new things in worship, learning, and operationally—interims are always temporary, transitional, and transitory; they’re not meant to last.

Next Monday, June 12, after a two-week break to unpack, settle in, hike, camp, and reconnect with Linda and the boys (as well as get used to the altitude again!), I start a 4-6 month interim at Boulder Mennonite Church, as they search for their next settled pastor.

Watch this space for my next set of posts, titled, “Temporarily Anabaptist,” as I get ecumenical in my own backyard!

But I can’t leave NC without telling you how much I loved it there. The congregation’s warmth, hospitality, and openness to all we did gave me energy for good ministry, and we did some amazing work together.

NC also turned out to be a GOOD place to witness the challenge and resistance of people of faith and moral conscience against injustice in the state government, and even a good place to witness the results of last November’s elections. In the Moral Monday Movement, the Mountain People’s Assembly, the Polk and Buncombe County Democrats, and local people of faith in Tryon and environs, I had my faith restored in the goodness of people in spite of our polarized society.

If you’ve read my posts from the last 11 months, you know many of them were found in my search for people, movements, and organizations that go against the public perception of North Carolinians as mean, conservative, and religiously bigoted—what people nationwide concluded from the media’s coverage of the infamous Bathroom Bill, HB2.

Progressive, open-minded, good-hearted, hardworking people of faith and moral conscience are the backbone of North Carolina’s long history of fairness, equity, and care for its most vulnerable citizens. The legislature’s craziness since 2013 is, in fact, an aberration.

But the best part of my experience there was serving with a congregation that is both socially and theologically more open-minded than most, but still representative of the political spectrum. I had a chance to begin figuring out how to preach the Gospel in such a way as to influence, and not just irritate, people with whom I disagree.

And that, I will take with me forever.

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