Six years ago during the search process that ultimately brought me to this church, I remember talking with the committee about the current pastoral staff. They were eager to tell me about the long-tenured, talented people serving at the church, among them the minister to children whose ministry extended far beyond the walls of the children’s building. “Julie is special,” they told me.
Of course, they were right.
Julie Long is special, in ministry and in life. Her love and concern for those around her, and especially those under her care, is palpable. Her gifts in communicating the gospel to children are something to behold and her ability to conceive of and run a program is rare. She’s taken our children’s ministry to new heights but also new depths, cultivating an environment where our youngest come to know of God’s unconditional love through experience, but also are nurtured in a way that leaves them ready to wade into the deeper waters of life and faith when the time comes.
And as you know well, Julie is pastor to our whole church, not simply our children and their families. Our entire congregation has been blessed by her gifts in preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. She’s challenged and inspired us from the pulpit, dedicated our babies, baptized our children, sat at our hospital bed, and buried our loved ones. She’s been an invaluable part of our staff, and partner in ministry. She has been special to us, to me over these last 14 years in ministry at our church.
So while we grieve Julie’s transition from pastoral ministry in our congregation in the coming weeks, we’re not surprised that others would see her many gifts and offer new and exciting opportunities for her to share them.
Baptist Women In Ministry, or BWIM, is one of our church’s core identity partners. We support them annually in our budget, count many members who have served in leadership positions on both the state and national levels, and many more who are involved and supportive. BWIM’s vision is to “be a catalyst in Baptist life, drawing together women and men, in partnership with God, to illuminate, advocate, and nurture the gifts and graces of women.” They do this in a variety of ways, ranging from mentoring young ministers, to providing seminary scholarships, to simply being present in congregations and at denominational gatherings to make sure women’s voices are heard and valued.
As Julie put two Sundays ago, in her new role with BWIM she will have an opportunity to make sure other young women receive the same opportunities, support, and encouragement that she did from this congregation. Special.
We will miss Julie’s presence on our staff greatly, but are comforted knowing this new opportunity will allow her and the rest of the Long family to remain in Macon and be members of our church.
I hope you’ll join us when we celebrate Julie’s ministry among us at a potluck lunch following worship on Sunday, September 2. Bring a gift of food to share—maybe your specialty—as we reflect on all the gifts Julie has so freely shared with us.