Twenty-five years ago this week, I preached my first sermon here at Peninsula. The message was a blur, but I still have the notes and may just preach it again someday. It was no barnburner; I can guarantee that. How do I know? Because I’d used my two best sermons to get the job! There were no others left in the files.
The previous Sunday the church had welcomed their new pastor and his family in grand style. Looking back, I think they honestly wondered if anyone would take the job. I never caught that sentiment until a couple of years later, but it wouldn’t have mattered, I was up for most any challenge. My father-in-law spoke at the installation. Don Personius had made a banner out front (no patio and no stairs to the parking lot mind you, just sidewalks going in various directions). After the service, we went over for a light lunch in the Fellowship Hall. It was there that my dad would ask Ken Garland when the first raise was coming. Really, Dad? The place was decked out in purple. Grapes everywhere. A grape stuffed animal still sits on a shelf in my office from that day. The Welch family got a grape-filled welcome. It was clever and appreciated.
The journey to that moment was far from certain. I had a daughter who really did not want to leave her dear friends in the desert. The search committee had to prep me for my interview with the “Elders” (they were called Deacons back then) for a couple of hours. Was I that shaky? And then there was a wise woman who warned me to not let the other women “eat me up.” Wow. There’s a ringing endorsement.
On that first Sunday, Danny was just 18 months — so we were a young family (young children, old parents). We were scared, to be honest. It was time for this change in our lives, but we’d left a situation full of young families and came into a situation where there were some, but not many. Where should we start?
It was my first position in the senior role in a church. I didn’t have much to do at first. After work, I’d take the kids to the beach (it was one block from our house) and wonder if I’d gone to heaven. Nine years in the desert makes you forget what living in a normal temperature is like. It’s like heaven, by the way.
But it’s been a wonderful journey together. The church has been gracious to my children. There were never unrealistic expectations (spoken or implied) put on them. They were allowed to grow up as regular kids, and I appreciated that grace given to them.
There have been good days and bad. People have come, and people have gone. Some were happy when they left, others not so much. I never actually drafted a resignation letter, though I may have thought about it from time to time. When I did think such thoughts, I reminded myself to love the people, no matter what. And cling to Jesus.
And what do I say after 25 years? To God be the glory, great things He has done. No doubt about it. May we all serve God in this generation. And then spend eternity together with Him.