February 2023 Reverend Reflections

Hello First Presbyterian Church,

Since I informed you one month ago of my coming resignation at the end of May, this is my first formal opportunity to write to you. Typically my Reverend Reflections are a reflection upon Scripture, but this month I have been reflecting quite a bit on the past five years and I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts. When I look back on the past five years I see and feel quite a few things.

The first thing I feel is gratitude. When you extended to me the call to serve as the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, you were taking a bit of a risk. I was young. (I am still young, although I have developed quite a few gray hairs over the past five years!) I had never served on staff at a church apart from two internships. I had been a hospital chaplain for four years, but never was I a pastor on staff at a local parish. It was a risk, and I want to thank you for taking that risk. It almost certainly meant that you had to suffer through my mistakes and bear with me in my personal and professional development. I am grateful for your patience and support over the past five years. I know that you will extend that same grace to whomever you choose to call as the next pastor of First Presbyterian Church, whether young and inexperienced or older and seasoned in ministry. They will be just as grateful as I am to have had the opportunity to serve you.

Another thought I’ve had as I look back on the last five years is satisfaction. I am leaving with the confidence that First Presbyterian Church is in a healthy place, ready to benefit from the skills and abilities of its next pastor. Breck Castleman brought the church into a place of spiritual health during his lengthy tenure and, building on his work, the elders and I have added to it an organizational and physical health that needed to be addressed. Regarding physical health, we have done extensive work on our building to bring it to a place of maintenance. It still creaks but at least it doesn’t leak (as much)! It is old, and so it will always require attention, but we are now able to turn our minds towards improvement. The Session has contracted with Ellingson Contractors and DMEX architects to explore ways we can alter or add to our physical space in order to increase the number of classrooms in the building and seats in our sanctuary. It is exciting to be able to think strategically about the physical space of the church from a position of health.

Regarding organization health, we have done huge amounts of work to put construct organizational structures that can support and sustain the growth of the church. All of our committees and elders are in the same boat and rowing in the same direction thanks to the development of our Mission, Vision, Values and the adoption of committee charters and relational protocols. We have job descriptions, an employee handbook, and policies and procedures. This is the boring but vital stuff that is necessary for organizational health. This was all developed in the last five years using the leadership and talent of several key elders on Session. Much thanks is due to them!

We are organizationally and physically healthy heading into this transition. Perfect? No, certainly not. But healthy, yes. There is always room for growth and improvement.

One final thought (really it’s more of an emotion) I have had as I look back on the past five years is excitement. I am excited for you. I am excited to see what God has planned for this church. I am excited to see whom he calls to serve you. I am excited for Siloam Springs to experience the love of Christ through you as you continue to go into the city where God has set you as aliens and exiles. This has been a wonderful place to call home for the past five years. My family and I have loved belonging to this body of believers and to this city, and we know that the next pastor will feel the same. I am excited for that person and for you!

God is faithful. He will not leave you alone, but will provide for what you need. 

May you see and experience his presence with you in this season and the next. 

Grace and peace,
Jonathan +