One More Blessing for All Souls

For twelve years (almost to the day), it has been my joy to be the pastor of All Souls Charlottesville, this vibrant, joyful, quirky, serious (sometimes too serious), playful, artful, generous, Jesus-loving church. When folks who should have known better asked Miska and me to move to Charlottesville to help form a new church with a small group of friends, I had no idea. No idea.

No idea the tears I would shed here. No idea the ways my understanding of God and the church and friendship and gospel would be challenged, shaped, stretched. Together, we’ve had bone-wearying seasons, months when I felt lost in a wilderness, times when grief overwhelmed. This Church has practiced lament. And repentance. And confession. And we’ve come to the Table again and again and again, clinging to the promise that we’d be filled with the life of Jesus and the Spirit’s deep, deep waters.

And oh the joy–so much joy, so much delight, so much hope. This Church knows how to throw a party, how to laugh, how to make beauty, how to love. Together, we’ve grown up into something mature and rooted, an oddly-arranged circle always clinging to The Mercy, refusing to let the Good Story go brittle and dusty, insisting that if we’re dealing with God, then we should always expect a hefty dose of both wonder and bewilderment.

For twelve years, one of my favorite moments has been the closing blessing. I look out over those beautiful faces. I catch as many eyes as possible. I linger in silence as long as I think they’ll let me. Then, with all the hope and faith and love in my heart, I speak God’s good words over them.

Soon, our family heads north where I will join the wonderful faculty of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. I’ll be teaching and helping to launch/direct The Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination. But I will carry this place, these dear people, in my heart. They have helped to make me the pastor I am. All Souls, you have accepted my shortcomings and allowed me to be myself (at least as much as I’ve known how to be). Thank you. Our hearts will always be intertwined. And we are forever joined in the mystery of bread and wine.

This Sunday, I’ll raise my hands one more time over these good, good people. I’ll take in the beautiful sight. I’ll surely feel the edge of tears. I will give thanks. And I will open that final pastoral blessing with the same words that I’ve opened most every benediction blessing for over a decade: You, dear friends, are God’s beloved…

11 Replies to “One More Blessing for All Souls”

  1. Winn, you and All Souls were the exact link to God I needed when I was just barely holding on. Thank you so much for your wisdom and faith and honesty and for passing the blessing through the good times and the bad. We wish you and Miska would have been able to come visit before you moved further away, but we know you have incredible demands on your time. We love you, and you will always hold a special place in our hearts for the role you played in our love story. God’s many blessings to you and your family. Have a blast in your new job!

    1. Winn, I am excited about your new endeavor, though I will miss you being right up 64 in Charlottesville! Please continue to write us. I know you will “follow wholeheartedly after God all of your days”, as we “never graduate from the school of discipleship.” Continue always in “strengthening your faith muscle.” I will enjoy reading your writings! He will not fail you, Jean Grogan

  2. Thank you for this Winn. I just left a church I pastored for 11 years. I grew up as a pastor there and they formed me and loved me and my family so well. It is hard to leave when church is home, but God has a new work for you. I am praying for the transition.

  3. May God richly and abundantly bless you and your family on this amazing new adventure which I’m sure will be filled with fresh inspirational fodder in the beautiful environment of Michigan. By the way, I just pre-ordered your biography on Eugene Peterson and can’t wait to read it. Best wishes, God-speed and keep your hearts open. I have a feeling God has some wonderful surprises up ahead!

  4. Blessings on you all! An exciting change God is bringing to your lives!

    Please tell me how to pre-order your biography on Eugene Peterson! I have anxiously been waiting for your book!

  5. Wow. Big changes for all of you. Praying they are good, good changes. Good luck with those winters!

  6. Wow, this a wonderful way to end with those you have loved and pastored so well then also to begin a new and exciting journey at this very special center which I have just become aware of through you. May your imgination flourish and keep growing, may you keep writing and please don’t lose contact with your larger flock!!! Blessings to you and your family, Winn!

  7. Hi Winn,
    How exciting this new opportunity is for all of you. As one of your followers said, “please do not stop writing”. I love hearing what you say through your words. Although sometimes your words are way out of my vocabulary. God bless you all in this new endeavor!

  8. Blessings, bro! Thanks for allowing my wife and me to enter your fellowship from time to time. A southern breeze of the Spirit to northern hearts. Trust God’s best in HIS new endeavors in your lives! Jeremy & Thuvia. Norwich, NY

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