October 17, 2023
Friends at CKPres-
Hopefully by now you have seen Ty’s letter. To draw on a word he used in his letter, this is one of those Dictionary-definition examples of “bittersweet.” Ty has brought an extraordinary work ethic, humor, creativity, integrity, love and passion for Christ and this congregation, and a willingness to learn and change and grow. He was a stabilizing force during both of my paternity leaves, sabbatical, and the many challenges of the pandemic. We will all miss him. I will miss him popping into my office to talk theology or NBA playoffs. Grace married into this church, and has embraced us with Christlike love; leading us with her beautiful voice in worship, serving in Sunday school and at youth group. Their absence will leave a felt gap. So there’s the bitter.
At the same time, I am so thrilled for the Whitmans. Having had the enormous privilege of working closely with Ty for over four years, I believe strongly that he is someone God has called to serve and lead in this topsy-turvy world of the 21st-century Western church. A mentor of mine, nearing his own retirement from pastoral ministry, recently wrote to me that one of the things that encourages him for the future of the Western Church and God’s continued work in and through the Church here (in spite of all the depressing statistics of decline) is the quality of leaders he continues to see coming up. Ty is another such example. Everything I’ve learned about Ty’s path to this next church seems to indicate that God is and has been very present in this process, leading him in these next steps. And there’s the sweet. We will forever be a part of Ty and Grace’s story, and they will forever be a part of ours. What a gift.
So, what of CKPres moving forward? The first thing you need to know is that we will be holding a luncheon after church in the Fellowship Hall on Sunday, November 12th, Ty’s last Sunday with us. We hope you can attend this celebration and time of gratitude for Ty and Grace.
The second item is the very good news that we have a successor in place for Ty. The position will be restructured somewhat—part-time rather than full-time—with the new title Director of Youth Ministry and Community Outreach. I am thrilled to announce that Amanda Warfield will be filling this position. Amanda was a member here from 2016-19, a fantastic youth leader, and even filled in as the interim youth director for five months before Ty was hired. She and her husband have been unable to resist the pull of Evergreen trees, snow-capped mountains and endless waterways since they moved away and had already planned to move back to Washington State. When I reached out to Amanda on a whim about this, she said, “I can’t even fathom this right now… this is quite literally an answer to prayer. I almost texted you yesterday to ask you to let me know if you heard of any part-time positions opening up.” Amanda loves Jesus and this church, she is great at connecting with students of all ages, highly organized, and a wonderful human being. And, as Dani has been gleefully reminding me, there will be a significant uptick in Disney and Taylor Swift conversations in the church office.
Her timeline is not yet firm—they hope to move within the next six months—and we are once again blessed by David and Stephanie Sweeney, who have agreed to lead the youth group until Amanda arrives.
So there’s more sweet. But the reason for it, again, is still bitter. I have sometimes referred to this church as a “Manna Church.” Like the Israelites receiving only the bread they needed for that day, it seems to me every time there is a gap somewhere, the one person we need comes along to fill it. I am amazed at how often this has happened here, and yet I still forget it sometimes and can get anxious when people need to step down or move away.
He’s no Saint Augustine or C.S. Lewis—he wasn’t even a Christian—but this lyric from Leonard Cohen seems to me pretty sound theology: “There is a crack, a crack in everything… That’s how the light gets in.” The departure of the Whitmans will leave a gap, a felt absence, a crack in the life of our church. I am saddened by it. But I do believe that it’s sometimes in these transitional moments, where the cracks are more easily felt or seen, that we discover God’s light in fresh and unexpected ways.
Let’s watch and pray together in this new season.