A Long Obedience
Jody Long was called to be our Minister of Youth and Outreach in January of 2004 during his final semester as a seminary student at the McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University. In September of that year, Julie, also a seminarian at McAfee, was called to be our Minister to Children and Families. Jody and Julie were dating at the time and before long would be married in our sanctuary, beginning a tenure of shared ministry at our church that is truly unparalleled.
I think its safe to say that even in our church’s 190 year history, no couple has done more to shape and nurture our congregation than Jody and Julie Long.
As Jody noted so eloquently in his letter to the church, this church has been a part of so many of his life’s most precious moments: his ordination into the gospel ministry, his wedding to Julie, his father’s funeral, and the birth and dedication of both his children. But it’s equally true that Jody has been an integral part of the life of our church in that time. He’s nurtured our youth in a faith that is “authentic,” as our vision statement puts it, and instilled in them a “sense of belonging” that has stuck with them as their life takes them elsewhere. Our church has been blessed to have Jody walk with our youth through those critical years of questioning and discovery.
Of course ministry to youth, while vitally important, is only one area of Jody’s ministry among us. For the past few years, Jody has worked with our Missions Committee to reimagine what missions can mean for our church. Together they have crafted new missions guidelines that will better position us to partner with organizations both locally and globally.
Youth and Missions have been in Jody’s title, but they far from cover all he has done and been for our congregation. It’s been said pastoral ministry is one of the last “generalist” vocations; we do a little bit of everything. In his time among us, Jody has taken it a step further; he’s done a lot of everything.
Few people, save Joe Johnson, know our church facilities better than Jody Long. He’s managed the kitchen and led Sunday school in the spire. He’s been on an extension ladder in the sanctuary so tall it would make your nose bleed and knows where all our many mechanical rooms are (and has the keys to them). There are also few people who have logged more miles in our church van (or spent more time on the side of the highway with it broken down). It’s safe to say in his 14 years among us, few people have touched our church both physically or spiritually as Jody has. For that, even while we celebrate this exciting opportunity to be the executive coordinator of our state CBF organization, his presence as part of our ministry team will be sorely missed.=
The great pastor-writer Eugene Peterson once observed that the Christian life runs counter to the world’s need for speed and lust for the novelty, and is best described as a “long obedience in the same direction.” It’s this “long obedience in the same direction” that for me will define Jody Long’s ministry at our church. Not simply because of the number of years he’s ministered among us—though that alone is impressive. But more because of how he’s ministered among us: with a spirit of generosity and grace, kindness and compassion, humor and humility. In short, with the spirit of the one we aim to follow.
Jody, we love you. I love you. As you go, know that you go with our blessing, our prayers, our gratitude, and continued support. We’re grateful to still have you and your family among us, and look forward to many more years of benefitting from your ministry, even as we do so in new and different ways.