So it all comes down to this last column after writing the “Wandering West Word” twice a month since my arrival here in May of 2008.  Thank you for granting me this privilege and honor of serving as your pastor.  We have covered a lot of ground, engaged in ministries and outreach into the community as well as the world.  I have been touched by the ways you have not only supported my ministry but revealed yourself and your gifts in sometimes surprising ways.

Some of you have done so without the spotlight, doing for others or for the church, not for recognition but as a faith response.  Maybe later I would hear of something you may have done, or in all likelihood, it remained unknown to me.  One of the concerns I had initially in coming here was the age of the congregation and wondering how much of my ministry would be involved in funerals.  Certainly we have had our share of funerals but perhaps no more so than any other congregation where I may have been called to serve.  Still I cherish many memories of those whom we have said “goodbye,” ever thankful for their life’s witness.

I was truly blessed to spend the last five years of my mother’s life looking after her, something I had pretty much ruled out until after my retirement.  You made that possible and for that, I am forever grateful.  Had I waited, it would have been too late.  Now, it is Linda’s turn to look in after her parents in Alabama, giving her the memories that she can carry for the rest of her life.

My ministry has been enriched by the paid staff that have joined me on this journey.  It has been great to have my senior staff member, Fabio Rodriguez, with me all of these years.  In fact, his employment here exceeds mine.  Each of these valued staff members understand that their job is more than a paycheck, but a ministry.  Thank you to Jackie Fain, Donna Nordby, Karen Bailey, and Cathi Krstulich for giving of yourselves in such ways as to honor and glorify God.

But paid staff only touches the surface of who really brings the church’s ministry and mission alive!  From Sunday school and Bible study to Operation Inasmuch and “A House Blest,” from chancel choir to handbell choir, from catered meals to OJ/Coffee Fellowships, more than a handful have stepped up time and time again.  Some to bring in food and paper goods, others ring bells for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Drive, we are making a difference!  

I am sure it will be an adjustment to retirement.  We have lots of things to look forward to, a birth of a new grandchild in December, a place to grow a garden, and a time to rest this weary soul.  I also look forward to hearing how you are transformed as a faith community under new leadership.   Knowing that God has this, I believe there is a bright future for all of us.  Again, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your faith journey and you mine!  Thanks be to God!

See you Sunday,

Gary L. West