It is with a mixture of sadness and joy that I write to tell you of a change that is coming. After much prayer and discernment, I have accepted a new call to the First Presbyterian Church of Concord, North Carolina. This morning, that church held a congregational meeting and unanimously elected me as their new Senior Minister. I will begin my ministry with them on August 1, 2014. My last Sunday in Rocky Mount will be June 29, 2014.
When I came to Rocky Mount in 2009, I was convinced that this was where the Lord wanted me to be. For reasons known only to God, your pastor nominating committee, which was prayerfully and capably led by Verna Gessaman and John Turnage, was willing to take a chance on an older seminary graduate who, despite his gray hair and worldly experience, was pretty green in ministry. I have always been very grateful that, after my leap of faith into a second career in the church, the grace of God allowed me to land here in this wonderful place with you. For the past five years, you have allowed me to be a part of your lives, sharing joys and sorrows, baptisms and weddings, tears and laughter. Some of the most precious memories I will take from this place will come from the funerals and memorial services of amazing men and women of faith. Remembering and celebrating those faithful disciples who raised you, loved you and showed you the way has been one of the great honors of my life. So, as I prepare to leave you for a new call, I am very aware that I will be leaving some amazing blessings behind.
Fortunately, there is also reason to celebrate. Despite economic strain and regional difficulty, this congregation has managed to thrive and even grow. You have just completed a successful campaign to renovate our physical plant and provide new opportunities for local mission. You have a dedicated, talented and faithful group of elders and deacons, shining lights in the community, who are ready and willing to lead. You are also blessed with a truly wonderful and gifted staff that will continue to minister to you and your families after I am gone. I thank God for allowing me the joy and privilege of working alongside such amazing, thoughtful and conscientious people of faith, and I leave with the peace of knowing that you are in very capable and caring hands.
Just as I felt God’s guiding hand leading me to Rocky Mount, I have felt it again in my call to Concord. When that church first contacted me, we were in the middle of our capital campaign renovations. The time was not right for me to leave, and I told them so. Their pastor nominating committee, however, was persistent and undeterred. Over time, I came to share their conviction that I am indeed the pastor God is calling to lead their church into a new chapter. As difficult as it will be for me and my family to say goodbye to the people of this church who have loved us well, I am convinced that the future is bright for the First Presbyterian Church of Rocky Mount. I say this because God has willed it to be so: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord… plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Really, in the end, all I can do is thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on me as your pastor. Thank you for allowing me to share your lives in good times and bad. Thank you for encouraging me, forgiving me, supporting me and being patient with me. But most importantly, thank you for sharing the walk of discipleship with me. I know that I am a better pastor, and a better person, for having known you and loved you.
Please know that, in the coming months, I will continue to pray for your “future with hope.” I ask that you do the same for me, Stephanie, Molly and Kate. And, as I have said to you so many times before, “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”
In Christian hope and joy,
Rev. Peter Bynum, Senior Pastor