December 30, 2020
We hope this finds you well and blessed and seeing God’s mercy. It has been a beautiful Christmas season, as we have remembered the baby born in a manger. We have sung the songs of Christmas and have been reminded again at how God provides. As we are reminded of God’s goodness, we are going to have to step out as we trust God’s provision. Pastor Julia, who has loved us well for these last almost five and a half years, has had an unexpected door opened by the Lord. As you know, she has been working faithfully and finished her doctoral work in May, studying the shalom (peace) of God. Her trusted mentor, Dr. Singleton, unknowingly submitted her name for consideration at a church that is undertaking a very difficult transition. Grace Church has been praying for over six months for a pastor to help lead them to experience the peace of God, and Julia’s name and giftedness came to mind. She has been studying the peace of God for the last over ten years.
We are so sad to see her go and know it is an unexpected time of transition for us all, including Pastor Julia. This last year has been a difficult year and this transition may seem to be yet another loss. It is especially hard because we love her and she loves us. But we are a stronger community of faith because of our time together. We have grown in our experience of the Holy Spirit, who will bring us comfort. We have connected and grown in fellowship, and those relationships, rooted in Jesus, are the true expression of our church family. We are stronger than we were and our faith will sustain us.
We celebrate with Pastor Julia as she says yes to God’s call to serve as Transitional Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Houston. Pastor Julia wanted us to share this with you here:
Dear Ones, I love you and I am so grateful that God called me here to serve you. Thank you for loving me so well these many years. We have been through so much together and I will never forget your kindness to me.
I wanted to share a bit about how this unexpected transition came to be. I have always tried to hold my life with an open hand and go where God calls, submitting myself to God, to be a good steward of my gifts. Dr. Singleton called me about twelve weeks ago and told me he had submitted my name at a church in Texas. I resisted, as I have not even casually looked to leave Covenant. I have worked to plant roots here. When I responded, he told me, “I think you sometimes confuse love with call. I know you love your people and they love you, but you are not using your full set of skills. I want you to go before the Lord and pray about it.” He listed out what he felt were my unique set of skills and told me that in one area, in particular, I was the most gifted he’d ever seen. It was the skill Grace Church most needs. He reminded me that it was a God-given gift and it was not being used and charged me to pray about it. So I went to three godly women in our church and my covenant group and asked them to pray with me.
I met with the committee via zoom and told them I was not looking to leave Covenant but I had told Dr. S that I would meet with them. After a few conversations, I realized they were interested in me as a serious candidate. At that point, I called and removed my name from consideration, as I could not wrap my head around the timing. The chair of the committee is a pastor’s daughter who asked if I might consider continuing in the conversation, knowing that I wasn’t really interested. She understood the dilemma of leaving a beloved church. I thought perhaps I might help coach them somehow, so I agreed. My prayer warriors and I continued to pray. As I got to know the people at Grace, I learned about their focus to experience the peace of God and their daily prayer for a leader to help them. I told my mom, and dismissed it, because of the unexpected timing. My mom said, “I don’t want you to go to Texas. I like your church. I like you living close. But it seems that you are looking for the ‘no’ instead of looking for what God might be doing. It actually works out better for me, but it is different than how you usually operate.” That was a significant conversation for me.
I continued to get to know Grace and one night I had a dream. Someone (who I believe to be God) was in my backyard. By the roots, He pulled up a plant in full bloom. There was dirt all around the root ball. He used his hand and knocked off some clumps and placed the plant on top of the soil. I woke up, praying that God would say no…that there would be an Abraham and Isaac moment, but I knew at that point that God was moving.
I met with the church and they voted unanimously in a few minutes to extend a call to me. They voted to hire a female pastor from California, which was pretty significant, and they felt confirmed in God’s call of me. What I know is that God’s hand is so evidently at work, and yet I really don’t want to go. I can’t wrap my head around the timing and I would never want to cause you distress. But I know that if I don’t go, it will be a decision based in fear and disobedience, and I can’t do that either. I want to submit myself to the Lord and I want my life to reflect what I preach. I want to be faithful.
This decision has been heart wrenching, but it is clear that God has opened this door. As I have spoken with some already, they have reminded me of God’s timing and provision. God brings the leader we need at the right time. I was brought to help you in the transition out of PCUSA and to help build a community that loves so well. I know that God will bring the pastor for the next season. We may not understand the timing and it is not what any of us would have chosen, but it is God’s timing and it is the perfect timing for the new pastor you will call and love. Please look for God’s provision, even in the midst of an unexpected transition. Please start praying for him or her, as they are praying for you. They will be blessed to know and love you, as I was and am. I will serve the Lord at Grace for these next two years and then return to Vacaville. I hope you will be delighted to see me about town, as I will be delighted to see you. You are and always will be so dear to me.
Your Session is actively looking for the pastor God has called for leadership for this next season of ministry. We know God will bring the leader He already knows and we will continue the faithful ministry to our community we have seen these last five and a half years. We have a wonderfully gifted leadership team and staff who will continue on during this transition.
We are grateful to Pastor Julia and pray she will be blessed as she has blessed so many. We invite you to celebrate her ministry on January 17th after our worship service. We will have a drive-by parade after church service, from 11:00 am to noon. If you would like to bless her with a gift card or check to help in her transition, please do that on that day or before, as she and her mother will start the drive to Texas right after the parade. Please be praying for her as she makes this move and please pray for the new leadership God is bringing to be part of our church family. God is faithful.
Trusting in God’s Timing and Provision,
Covenant Community Church Session