A Letter from Pastor Jon-Marc MacLean…

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As a native of south Florida, my experience with the seasons was as follows: hot with school, less hot with school, and hot without school. I knew about fall and winter, and we’d still celebrate by making paper chains of snowflakes around Christmas, but I never experienced anything like “standard” seasons until I moved to Kentucky. I experienced the beauty of fall during a particularly wet year (lots of colors that stayed on the trees for a long time) and started collecting beautiful leaves, which prompted my neighbors to offer all the leaves in their yards if I wanted to gather them. Winter was cold (for me) with more ice than snow, but I reveled in it and would ride innertubes down hills while those more experienced with snow snickered at me from behind windows with mugs of cocoa. Spring was more glorious than I could remember with the actual return of colors rather than simply the brightening of the green that I was used to back home. And summer…well, summer heat can be miserable anywhere, but the freedom it allots for students and teachers is marvelous. The days were made for swimming and nights for grilling.

Seasons change, and we miss them a bit as they end but also look forward to what is to come in the next season. The same is true for the seasons of our lives together. We enter relationships and celebrate the newness of it all, watch as they grow in beauty and strength, reap the harvest of love and grace in the difficult seasons, and hold onto their memories in difficult times. What can be said of our individual relationships can also be said of our congregational relationships.

There are times for welcoming new people into the life of our congregation and times for saying farewell. This current season includes both truths. We are welcoming two new staff members on board at Hope. The first is known to many of you, with Bruce Dillman being named the Director of Discipleship. Bruce is completing his journey through the candidacy process to become a Rostered Leader of Word and Sacrament (pastor) within the ELCA. He is joining the staff at ¾ time to lead the areas of Education and Group Ministries as well as assisting with the preaching. Until he is rostered, he is unable to preside at the table or over baptisms, something he did as a Roman Catholic priest in the past, but we are not in full communion with Rome (at this time), so he will be joined by another pastor until he is rostered. This is an especially important role to fill in our congregation, as Dr. Dean Piper begins moving back into re-re-retirement. Dean will still lead some classes and continue to preach, though he will be doing both less often and he will be enjoying his downtime more often. We give thanks for his years of dedication, putting Hope first on many levels, and we look forward to how we will continue to glean from his gifts, even as his golf handicap continues to plummet.

Dr. John Luoma is also re-entering full-time retirement (which I am beginning to believe should be an actual designation accorded to people within our community). John will continue to work with Walk to Emmaus and the Centering Prayer groups that are close to his heart. We are grateful for his years of service on staff, first in pastoral care and then in education. His absence is another reason we are thankful for Bruce and Dean’s willingness to work with Hope University.
Another new face on staff is Jill Beck. Jill is a Licensed Local Pastor with the United Methodist Church and serves as the associate pastor at Wildwood UMC. She is a certified leader for Celebrate Recovery (CR), a Christian 12-step program that deals with a variety of issues including addiction, anxiety, and depression. She has begun leading CR at Hope, bringing her experience, team, and burgeoning CR community with her. She is also coming on board to begin Fresh Expression outreaches of worship and faith experience outside of our normal congregational gatherings. Some Fresh Expressions that other churches are doing include “Theology on Tap” (a bible study group that meets in pubs), as well as after-school programs and an Ultimate Frisbee league and study group. Jill will be working with staff and community partners to determine the needs around us, particularly in the Lake Weir area, and how we connect those needs with the grace and peace of Christ.

Yes, seasons are changing at Hope. As we say farewell to some ministries, we are blessed to be welcoming others. As we consider how to move forward with regard to a southern site, we must remain flexible in order to adapt to changing needs, settings, and systems. Please continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom and integrity, and to help us find those places where worship, work, and welcome intersect in the lives of our community.

Grace and peace,

Pr. Jon-Marc