Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Post I've Been Waiting to Write

On June 16, 2012, I was on my way home from MVNU with a small group of my students. Things at High Street had been very tense for a few weeks. There was a lot of pressure coming from a few individuals on the board that was wearing me thin. Xavier was five weeks old, so sleep was at a premium. All-in-all, I was already high-stress.

We had a conversation in April or May with some of the board and the DS, the DS informed us that finances were somewhat tight at HSN and nobody's job was secure. He told us there would be no hard feelings if we left in the interim because, quite frankly, it would make things a lot less painful. (My wording, not his)

So, I started "looking" then. I had already been down to the "final 2" of a church before June. My resume was already in the hands of a couple churches even after that original interview on the NWO District."

Anyway, back to June 16. I was on my home from BLAST at MVNU and I got a call from a board member asking if I could meet at Tim Hortons. After a few phone calls back and forth, they cancelled the meeting then asked again if I could meet. I asked if it was anything important so that I could prepare myself for the conversation (already having had a number of tough conversations with some board members), they told me it wasn't. So, I went.

My spidey-senses were tingling, I even told my friend Dave (another youth pastor) that I was pretty sure I was being let go. He prayed with me in the parking lot of a Wendys before we parted ways.

I went to the meeting and was, in fact, let go. My ministry at High Street would be over at the end of June. They asked me to keep tight lipped about it and not tell the whole church, they wanted the opportunity to present the facts.

We were absolutely devastated.

In the weeks that followed, we prayed and asked God for direction. I started a more earnest search, enlisting the help of friends who were more connected than I was.

I had a phone interview with a church in Mason, Michigan while I was in Chicago on the HSN mission trip with my students. I sat in the air conditioned van and talked with the church board.

I had a phone interview with a church in San Diego, where I was informed I was the pastor's top candidate.

Then, I made the "Final 4" with Mason. They were having 4 candidates come in to interview for the soon-to-be vacant youth pastor position and I was given the choice of when to come in (which felt like an honor to me). We went first.

After the interview weekend in Mason, we had another phone interview in San Diego, this time with the search committee. The pastor seemed really excited about Holly and I. We were ready to pack our bags for a weekend interview onsite in San Diego.

Then Mason called, they were going with one of the other candidates.

Then San Diego called, they wanted someone more "SoCal."

After months of silence, we got a call from a church in Baltimore. I had a couple phone interviews, then we went out for a weekend interview. I asked if we were the only people being interviewed, basically asking "Is it my job to lose." We were told that there was another interview scheduled, but it was my job to lose.

After the weekend in Maryland, we were ready to move out there, even getting an "unofficial offer" on the last day we were there. After about a month of waiting, Maryland called, they were going with the other guy, he was from the area, his folks actually went to the church.

Cue another couple months wait before getting the call from Marietta. Things went really fast there before getting asked down for a weekend interview. We went down knowing we were the only interview scheduled and the NYI President (who had run the search) was really excited for us to come be the new youth pastor.

We left there knowing they were having a board meeting in 2 days, so we were ready to get the call on Wednesday morning. As Wednesday afternoon rolled around, my senses started going off again; I texted the NYI President and she told me the pastor was going to call me. He did about 5 minutes later, they were going to go with someone else.

That was in April. I even wrote about the absolute heartbreak that accompanied that phone call. You can read it here.

Fast forward a couple months and we got another chance with a church in Springfield. I met the pastor over coffee, we met the search committee then finally the whole church was invited to meet us. I preached there on June 16, 2013 (exactly one year to the day after being fired).

They voted this morning and the vote was "overwhelmingly positive." So, as of tomorrow morning, I'm the Family Life Pastor at Hillside Church of God in Springfield Ohio!

Thank you all, seriously, I can't thank you all enough for your prayers, love and support. The past year was the most difficult year of my life (which is sad because I had such joy with my little boy). There were times when I thought we'd never find another position in ministry. But, we've accepted the position, start there tomorrow.

I'm so excited to be back in the saddle. It feels great to be "pa" again. Note, that's not "Pa" to my hillbilly friends (although there are a couple people who do call me Pa), it's p-a, as in, Pastor Alex!

Thanks for supporting us through our time of Exile, our Land Between and being willing to console through the tears, frustrations, and moments of anger. We count ourselves lucky to have such great friends.

And with this news, I officially cross off the first thing from my list of 30 things to do before turning 30, get back into full time ministry!