Mary Gay McKinney
Rev. Mary Gay McKinney

The story is told of a pastor who, when he moved to a church, felt that each Sunday school class should have a Bible verse for a theme, a tagline we might call it today.  He found the classes, whether adult, youth or children, to be enthusiastic about this.  All found verses and displayed them under their class names except the crib nursery.  After much prayer and pondering, someone said, “Let’s make it I Corinthians 15:51.  And that verse reads “Lo! I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” 

As I wind up my time with you as Coordinator of Congregational Care, in a somewhat similar vein, if I were asked to find a line from a hymn to describe my time with you, it would be this:  “With healing balm my soul is filled and every faithless murmur stilled: To God all praise and glory.” ~ UMH#126.  You have been from the start, and continue to be, healing balm for me.  You have showered me with healing balm, grace, kindness.  Grace, as Pastor Rob is preaching this month, has come from our pastors, staff members who have moved on, current staff and members of the congregation.

It all began on an August morning in 2017.  I had delivered my remarks at an annual conference during a service held each year to honor retiring pastors.  Having been ordained a deacon in 1977, I condensed 40 years into an under-five-minute speech.  A couple of months later I received a letter from Bishop Dyck.  She appreciated my remarks and was inviting me to serve as one of the retired clergy on the Board of Ordained Ministry of our conference.  Rev. Rich Darr was a member of the Board at that time, and in the margins of those meetings we enjoyed conversations and discovered mutual interests.  Sometime that next year Goldy saw a job posting and said, “Mary Gay, I think this might interest you.  It’s Coordinator of Congregational Care at the UMC of Geneva.” So I phoned Pastor Rich, “I’d like to apply but only if this doesn’t change our friendship if I don’t get the job.”  He agreed.  I interviewed with the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) and a few days later received an offer from Alan Leard, chair of SPRC and I started in January of 2019.  Within a short time I became quite fond of our members and friends, the staff, the pastors and a new ministry.

 Ministry has involved visits with homebound persons and elders in assisted living facilities.  I’ve also been the staff person assisting with some small groups in the church.  Occasionally I’ve made hospital visits, conducted funerals when our pastors were unavailable, and recently had the privilege of officiating at a wedding in our sanctuary.  When the pandemic overtook us quite suddenly in March of 2020, our pastors invited me to prepare a weekly “deevo,” which I’ll continue to produce now once a month.  Amidst these involvements, I have experienced with you a time of healing and joy.  When things shifted radically for me in every direction in the early 2000’s, I had no idea I would one day experience the joy you’ve made happen for me.

 As I retire again at this time from my part time ministry here, I’m happy that Pastor Lisa will be taking up major responsibility for pastoral care in our new staff configuration.  Pastor Rob’s leadership in the role of lead pastor has blessed our church in ways told and untold.  He and Pastor Lisa have blessed me in their care and collegiality.  Beginning September 1st, I’ll be traveling, spending time outside when possible, reading and perhaps camping.  My relationship with you at UMCG now begins the next chapter.  I’ll be an active volunteer like many of you, assisting our pastors when needed.  The Masai of Tanzania teach us this saying, “Be not far from us.”  I plan, Lord willing, to be not far from you, beloved church family.

            I pray that newcomers to our church, those who have been here for decades– and all in between– experience the soul filling healing balm that’s so very here in and through you.  When you are back near a hymnal, check out #126.  This is you.  This is us in Jesus.  Thank you!!