The Weather Report MAY 2018

Ten years ago this month, I picked up and moved to Nashville to become your pastor. The previous fifteen years in New Orleans had exceeded my expectations. During the end-stage of my relationship with St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, I was keenly aware of the importance of goodbyes. How I expressed them would do much to reinforce the message I had articulated for a decade-and-a-half. Faith is a life-long commitment to exploring and becoming someone different from when you first believed.
 
The space I vacated in New Orleans ran deep and wide. Through the sharing of heartfelt goodbyes I consequently discovered energy for the hellos awaiting me. Now, a decade later, I pause to assess the terms of my endearment for you and the church family God is making of us. I assess that the space acquired here at Immanuel Baptist Church is as large as that I left behind. I am deeply grateful for this gift.
 
Someone has said that a grateful person does not take things for granted. Benefiting from advantages or other people without so much as a thought was a wrinkle ironed out of my young self by a loving father and mother. The attitude “Been there, done that” was never evinced in the house of my childhood. Gratitude turns down this option. True, they could only teach me; gratitude cannot be enforced.
 
Margaret Visser is an anthropologist of everyday living. In her book The Gift of Thanks she highlights the three adjectives describing emotional feeling that can be followed by “to.” “They are: sympathetic (to), devoted (to), and grateful (to).”1 Taking this thought one step further she adds, “Adding ‘to’ to the three words of sentiment addresses them to persons who have not only intentions but good intentions.”2 Gratitude requires other people. I cannot be grateful to myself.
 
On the occasion of my tenth anniversary as your pastor, I have sounded my gratitude and attempt to put some words to my findings. For starters, I am deeply appreciative for the constancy of your kindness to me. I am always awed to be a fellow participant with you as you move from one great era of life to another. I truly treasure the friendships, the soil of our relationships. I am indebted to you for the many expressions of your deep love for Jesus Christ, for they encourage and teach me. I am honored to serve as your pastor. 
 
God has a mission for the church in the world. The challenge this journey presents us necessitates listening again to new voices and being open to discovering new worlds. At the start of my eleventh year I desire to keep exploring, and to do so in the hopes of becoming someone completely different than I am today. I hold to the words of the psalmist who wrote, “Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”3 
 
—Steven
 
1Visser, Margaret. The Gift of Thanks.
2Visser, Margaret. Ibid.
3Psalm 37.4.