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Posted: June 17, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Living out loud: Tough farewells

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet each other with Christian love. All of God's people here send you their greetings.
2 Corinthians 13:11-13

I don't like goodbyes. I never have. I think hellos are much more fun.

This week in north Georgia is Annual Conference week, and if you're a Methodist, that can only mean one thing: next week is moving week. Many congregations get anxious during May and June as pastors are reappointed from one church to another. Not all pastors are reappointed every year, but some are reappointed.

One thing is for certain: moving to another church or receiving a new pastor family can be a bittersweet experience. We must say goodbye to those whom we have grown to love over the years, and we must say hello to our new congregation or pastor. If you're a Methodist, this all makes sense, and while we might not like saying goodbye, we expect that it will come sooner or later.

From the beginning of Methodism, itinerancy (moving from one church to another) has been a way of life for preachers. It was a life that the Apostle Paul knew as well. Paul spent much of his life "on the move" from one place to another, starting new congregations and encouraging young churches as he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From time to time, Paul would hear of problems in congregations, and he would write letters to those churches to address particular problems and to encourage the Christians to keep doing the work of spreading the Gospel and living out the Christian message of loving God and neighbor. In the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells his readers to continue to be joyful, to grow into mature Christians, and to encourage each other. "Live in harmony and peace." What better parting words are there?

As some Methodist ministers plan to move on to new congregations, we share words of wisdom with our congregations just as Paul shared words of encouragement with the Corinthians. We encourage churches to continue the work of spreading God's love to others. We remind them to maintain their relationship with God through daily spiritual practices of Bible reading, prayer, meditation, fasting and regularly meeting with other Christians for Holy Communion. We encourage and challenge them to accept and work with the new pastor and family, and to live in peace and harmony with others.

These are not just good words for members of United Methodist churches; they are good for everyone. Build a relationship with God by reading the Bible, by praying, by meeting with other Christians regularly for fellowship and Holy Communion, and live in peace and harmony with all people. This is the he

Jan McCoy is associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Covington. She may be reached at jan.mccoy@ngumc.net.

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