My least favorite thing about the United Methodist church is our pastor merry go round. Every 4-8 years, a pastor leaves a church and a new one usually takes his/her place. In theory, this is great for the growth and transition of churches but in practice is a sad time for the congregation. I am especially struggling with it now as our beloved, SAG, Susan Allen Grady, is leaving my church and going to another.
Since we were on spring break when the announcement was made that she was leaving our church, I found out on Facebook. I just couldn’t believe it- I never expected her to be leaving us this summer. I still haven’t found it in me to “like” that Facebook post.
SAG and I started at our church around the same time. I first met her at a low country boil at our senior pastor’s home. She seemed reserved but very friendly. I had no idea that she would become one of my biggest mentors over the coming years.
The first time I was able to work with her it was to help plan a church picnic. It was during the planning meetings that I begin to appreciate SAG’s honesty and diplomatic processing. Her witty sense of humor also started to shine. She has no problem poking fun at herself either.
As the years went by, she asked me to help plan several other events and I had the joy of continuing to work with her. I got to see her in action as a preacher and a young mother to a high spirited daughter. On top of that, her husband is also a preacher. That is a lot to balance and she always does it with a smile and plenty of grace.
She works to make everyone feel special by being generous with her time. She never rushes a conversation and always makes her office open to whomever needs to chat. SAG has been a cheerleader for my writing by encouraging me to share it publicly and by helping review/edit a small group study discussion I wrote.
She also has been instrumental in me completing two Disciple classes over the last few years. Because of her encouragement, my Bible knowledge has grown exponentially. She has also helped gently push me in starting and leading two small groups. As a result, my spiritual friendships have deep roots now and my faith has grown deeper as well.
In my mind, the biggest effect SAG has had on me is through establishing a weekly communion service. Last week, I was able to say a few words during one of her last communion visits. Here is what I shared (through lots of tears):
“At this stage in motherhood life, getting to Sunday School and “big church” is difficult with a loud, rambunctious 4 year old son. Thankfully, this communion service has helped me fill this church void each week. Susan has consistently filled it with uplifting and thought provoking homilies. Her commitment to recruiting others to serve and involving attendees in participating does not go unnoticed. I feel this weekly service is one of the most intimate opportunities at our church. I’m grateful for her leadership in starting the service and continuing to make it a priority.
Susan is an encourager. Between my writing, calling to share at communion last year, and forming small groups- Susan is always there to help and cheer me along. She makes herself available for mentoring and encouragement whenever needed. I appreciate your investment in me and my faith.
As a fellow lifelong Methodist, I’m going to miss the strong, female leadership that Susan brings to our church. But, at the same time- I’m proudly cheering you on as you assume your new senior pastor position. We love you and will miss you.”
Obviously, I am sad to see her leave for so many personal reasons. I am going to miss her smile, leadership, sense of humor, and encouragement. But, at the same time, I am so proud of her to be moving into a senior pastor role. I know that God has big things in store for her and her new church. She is a lover of people and relationships and I know that will carry her far in life. I am just proud to be on her cheerleader squad during life’s journey.
On a positive note, she said I can still text her even though she isn’t my official pastor anymore. I am glad to still call her my friend.
Best wishes SAG!