As I have spent these last few weeks reflecting on my time as a minister at First Baptist, I have been flooded by so many memories of people and experiences that have enriched my life. I’d like to name, specifically, some of the great gifts that this church has offered me and my family.
As a college student trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, you welcomed me and knew me and found places for me to serve. I learned how to do children’s ministry by working alongside those who were doing it well, and I was able to test out my own gifts and interests in an encouraging place.
You continued a pattern of calling young ministers and serving as a teaching congregation for so many of us, giving us a place to grow and learn while surrounded by grace-filled, wise mentors and friends.
You were flexible with me as my sense of pastoral identity broadened, and you gave me opportunities to grow and step into new roles and responsibilities.
You have been so very generous to our family, walking with us through so many of our significant life moments. Your tangible gifts, your words of encouragement and affirmation, the ways you have shown up for us, and the ways that you have loved our children have been so meaningful.
It has been a great joy to have been here long enough to watch “my” children (our church’s children) grow into youth and young adults, and to see the ways that they have and are becoming thoughtful, caring, and world-changing human beings.
If I leave behind any legacy, I hope that it is this: an awareness that the youngest among us are created in God’s image, and that they are not just the future of the church, but they are our present. They are capable and gifted, and they should be listened to and included and empowered in the life of the church. Let them lead you, as Jesus said they would. Nurture and love them with intention.
Thank you for all of the ways you have blessed me and affirmed me and celebrated me, particularly in these last few weeks. My hope is that I begin my work with Baptist Women in Ministry, I will be able to equip and empower other women ministers in the ways that you have done for me.
- Julie Long