Thank you for extending a call to me thirteen years ago. After fifteen wonderful years at Jubilee Fellowship in St. Catharines, Marja and I were ready for an exciting new challenge. You invited us for a date and followed it up with a Letter of Call. That was a wonderful leap of faith on your part.
Thank you for welcoming us into your homes. After we arrived, we felt lost. It was only after we visited you in your homes that we finally felt “at home”! Since then, we have made many “get acquainted” visits and enjoyed your hospitality. By being in your homes, we got to know you so much better.
Thank you for your interest in our family. Many of you know our kids and grandkids by name. You’ve also shown great kindness to my parents whenever they’ve visited us. In ministry, living far away from your immediate family can be hard, especially on weekends or special times like Christmas or Easter. Thankfully, members of our family were able to come to us, and when they did you welcomed them with genuine interest.
Thank you for accepting us as we are. I didn’t think that I could be a pastor because I didn’t have the demeanor of a “dominee.” Marja certainly never saw herself as a “Pastor’s Wife” and still remembers the shock of being called “The Missus” in our first congregation. My parents, however, encouraged me to be myself and Marja found the courage to be herself wherever she’s been. That has worked for us for all of these years because of accepting people like you.
Thank you for forgiving me whenever I messed up or let you down. A double booked appointment or a forgotten reference letter or an insensitive comment can really rock a relationship. But you have shown understanding and extended grace by assuming the best and giving me many second chances. This has helped me to forgive myself whenever I disappointed not only others but also me.
Thank you for blessing Marja and me with the freedom to enjoy many adventures beyond the adventure of serving Hope Fellowship. You allowed us to cycle Sea to Sea, to do Disaster Response work in Chicago and to enjoy a sabbatical in Hawaii. You also gave me the freedom to serve on the Quinte’s Classical Ministries Committee, the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), and our denomination’s Ecumenical and Interfaith relations Committee. These experiences broadened my outlook and strengthened my faith. They also gave me insights that I shared with you, including the phrase “making room at the table” which came from my years on the CCC which represents 85% of Canada’s churches. But these commitments beyond our own congregation required time and energy that you allowed me to take.
Thank you for allowing me to work with Evelyn, our outstanding administrative assistant, our team of passionate zone co-ordinators, our committed and visionary office bearers and the incredible army of faithful volunteers who make Hope Fellowship the hopeful place that it is. These relationships enriched me in ways that I cannot measure.
Finally, thank you for pulling out all the stops to celebrate our partnership in ministry. We will never forget you. We will always miss you.
One of my songs goes like this: “Can’t thank God enough for you. I never can thank God enough for you. I don’t know where I would be. If you had not seen what you see in me.” That song expresses the deep gratitude to God that I feel for the Journey of Hope that we have been on together for thirteen memorable years.
Marja and I really can’t thank God enough for all of you!
- Grace and peace, Pastor Peter