I want to use my devotion on this Labor Day weekend to recognize several staff transitions in the worship area. First, we officially welcome this week our new Director of Traditional Music and Worship, Dr. Jeff Rogers. Jeff comes to us by way of First UMC, Ocala, FL where he served under, get this, a Rev. Fuquay! Scary thought that there could be two in the United Methodist Church. Jeff received his Bachelor and Master of Music degree from the The Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University and his Doctor of Worship Studies from the Robert E. Weber Institute.
As the son of a United Methodist pastor, Jeff has been in the church all his life and immersed in church music since age 10. He and his wife, Lauren, have two sons, Miles (11) and Graham (9). The Rogers just moved into their new home in Carmel last weekend and will have a few Sundays for Jeff to worship and observe before his first Sunday directing the choir Sept. 16.
At the same time we recognize a change in organist at St. Luke's. This position had been filled by Charles Manning who also served as Assistant Director. After several years of review of this position by our Staff-Parish Relations Committee, this job was restructured effective August 22, creating a part-time devoted organist role. A search team composed of Dr. Rogers, choir members and others will post an ad and interview candidates. Charles, though not interested in this role, will graciously continue to be available for special services like weddings and funerals if requested. Charles has been in an official capacity at St. Luke's for 19 years and we are working with him to plan a recognition in the near future honoring his almost two decades of service.
And one last, but very important transition involves Fran Wyatt, our Director of Contemporary Worship. Fran has been wrestling with a call to ministry for some time and senses God nudging him into a wider place of ministry. He has accepted an invitation to become the Pastor of Worship at Westlake Community Church of God,where he can be ordained and given a chance to carry out more pastoral expressions of ministry. You can read Fran's letter sharing more about this here:
Due to multiple speech impediments, I've never been a person of many words. Often, much like Moses, I struggle to physically speak what God has put on my heart to say but you press through. Today is no different as I share that I am transitioning from St. Luke's staff in early October. My last day and Sunday will be the 7th.
We, my wife Cheryl and I, were brought to St. Luke's by Pastor Rob and the search committee with the mission of helping to start a contemporary community in a church that has long been serving Indianapolis in a wonderful way through its traditional worship offerings. Starting a new community felt incredibly daunting and we believed it was something that God had equipped Cheryl and me for. It has been an incredible journey and an honor to be part of St Luke's history in this way!
I've been feeling a call on my life to continue to grow and be stretched in responsibility and ministry. Specifically, to pursue becoming a pastor and to be ordained. And God has opened a new door for me to pursue this in a way that is attainable at this stage of life. I will be transitioning to serve at Westlake Church of God in Avon and in that denomination, I will be commissioned as a Worship Pastor, while also also providing leadership for their Communications Department. Cheryl is planning to remain on staff here at St. Luke's and will be in the office during the week, as will our daughter, April, who works with the facility department.
We leave this worship community with a mix of emotions as we've watched this team grow into a passionate group of artists with this in mind: Share the joy of Christ and create an environment of worship that leads to transformation. I've never been prouder of any group of people I've had the pleasure of leading.
Thank you Rob, Clergy, Staff Parish and the Contemporary Search committee for trusting us with this wonderful life changing mission...God Bless!
Fran's last Sunday will be October 7. His wife, Cheryl, who works in our front office will remain on staff. Fran has been a rich blessing to St. Luke's starting a new contemporary worship service from scratch in 2014, then adding a second service in late 2016. Fran has put together a nearly all volunteer team who lead outstanding music each week. Fran will be dearly missed, but we wish him well and send him forth with our blessings to live out God's call on his life.
Kim Davis, who sings in the vocal team, and who led the first search that brought Fran here, has agreed to chair a search team again. They will be starting very quickly and regular updates of their progress will be shared. We are most fortunate that Matt Bays, who is on our staff, will step in as interim Worship Leader during this time. (If you don't worship in the contemporary services you may remember Matt as Jesus in Godspell this past spring)
So let me close with this: grace and labor. On a weekend when we celebrate the gift of human labor, we also recognize that grace is not something we can ever earn. Grace is a gift. We don't work for it. We simply receive it. This weekend, though, we consider how these two seemingly opposite realities are brought together. We celebrate several special people God has used to allow their labors to express God's grace to us.
Music, more than any other medium, communicates God's grace. In listening we put ourselves in a position to receive. We can't earn it. We are simply to enjoy and be blessed by it. In a very unique and unexpected year, we experience transitions of people who have brought that kind of gift to us. Through Mark Squire, who left in May to be the new Director of Worship at Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis, Charles Manning and Fran Wyatt, we honor and acknowledge servants through whom God has imparted grace to us. While such transitions bring many different feelings, we turn to the grace these men helped us receive. We thank them and all those whose work for Christ has been used by God to offer His grace reminding us that we are loved, we are forgiven, we are never alone and God is out in front of us. There can be no greater fruit from our labor than that!