The longer I live, the more I believe that the one thing you can count on in life is change. Life changes. It is simply a fact.
Nonetheless, sometimes those changes catch you off guard and surprise you. And that’s what happened with the newest change coming up for our family.
The APNC of Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco contacted me a few months ago asking if I’d apply for their Associate Pastor position. While we loved the idea of living in the city, Mike and I just didn’t feel like it was the right timing for us, so I didn’t. But when they contacted me again, asking if we might “just talk” and see where God leads, I felt like I had to at least have a conversation. After all, what’s the harm in just talking?
The problem is, anyone who’s allowed room for the Holy Spirit to move in your life knows how much trouble she can cause!
The more we talked and the more we discerned together, the more it became clear that God was calling us to this ministry. Even Mike, for whom this is horribly inconvenient having to take the bar again and find a new job, recognized that we couldn’t say no.
Once upon a time, a guy named Jonah said no and ended up in a big fish, so….
So, we are moving to San Francisco at the end of September.
We are, on the one hand, so so excited and happy. This city, this church, this ministry, there’s just so much to look forward to!
On the other hand, we are so so sad to be moving away from the friends we’ve met here in the Twin Cities and to be saying goodbye to the church that taught me what it means to love a congregation. For me, the thought of leaving The House of Hope breaks my heart over and over again. If we weren’t sure we were being called elsewhere, I couldn’t do it.
Here’s the letter the congregation received last week:
Dear Friends and Members of The House of Hope Presbyterian Church,
Sometimes new opportunities for ministry come find you even when you are not looking for them, and so with bittersweet feelings of both joy and sadness, I share the news that I have accepted a call to be the Associate Pastor for Community Formation at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, California. My work will begin there at the beginning of October, and my last Sunday at The House of Hope will be Sunday, September 14, 2014.
I am blessed to have served as your Associate Pastor for the past four years. You have challenged, loved, and supported me.
Not only did you welcome me, but you welcomed my family. Mike and I could not have asked for a more supportive and loving congregation to welcome us and our growing family. Saint Paul and The House of Hope will always hold a special place in our hearts. It is where Mike learned to be a lawyer and where I learned to love a congregation. It is where our family grew and will always be the birth place of our son, Austin. And above all, it is where God placed me to experience what it truly means to be a minister.
Even as we are excited to begin a new phase in our lives; we are heartbroken that we cannot continue this journey with you all. Although God now leads us to different paths, I am thankful for this time at which our paths intersected.
You are a congregation with so many gifts and so much to offer, and you are blessed with compassionate and capable leaders. I know that God will continue to transform this world through the faithfulness of this church.
It has been an honor and a privilege to share in ministry with you all and to work with such an amazing team of colleagues. Thank you, so very much, for surrounding us with your love during these four amazing years.
I look forward to being with you throughout this spring and summer, and I ask for your prayers during this time of transition for us all.
Rev. Joann Haejong Lee
Liturgy used in United Theological Seminary’s service at the closing of an internship year says, “Ministries begin in anticipation, and when fulfilled, end in thankfulness.” While my ministry at The House of Hope has not yet ended, that’s where I am, filled with thankfulness. Thankful for colleagues who became family. Thankful for a congregation’s love and trust. Thankful for these deep, abiding relationships. Thankful for this opportunity to have sojourned here in Saint Paul doing what I love. Thankful for all the growth and change that occurred while we were here.
Four years ago, when we crossed the border into Minnesota after our seven hour drive from Chicago, it was me, Mike, & Bailey in his Honda Accord. When we leave Minnesota, we go with two dogs, a baby, and hearts full of gratitude.