A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office

It happened almost forty years ago, somewhere between Massachusetts and Texas. For when we left Boston, headed back home to take our first pastoral appointment, I had been told that we were being posted to the town of Waller, a small burg just to the northwest of Houston.

By the time my aging Dodge Dart could make it back to the Lone Star State, however, the bishop had changed the appointment. And so we spent the next three years happily settled into the coastal community of Brazoria, aptly named for the adjacent Brazos River–or as the early Spanish settlers called it, the Rio de los Brazos de Dios, or “The River of the Arms of God.”

And now apparently, it’s happened once again. For before I ever even officially got to my new job downtown as the Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence of the Texas Annual Conference–a title I worried would never fit on a regular sized business card, by the way— my appointment has shifted. Instead, I am now being sent to serve as the pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, a congregation nestled right up against that same Brazos River, only some forty miles or so further upstream than our first assignment.

Such sudden changes, of course, come with the job of being an itinerant Methodist pastor. Admittedly, we’re not quite the “prophets of the long road” that our circuit-riding predecessors were. But in the end, those of us who are the spiritual heirs of John Wesley and Francis Asbury still go where we are sent, and we gladly serve those to whom we have been appointed.

To be clear, let me own the fact that as odd as it all unfolded–quite literally coming together just this week, in the days after our annual conference ended and I preached my final sermon at Lakewood– I felt God’s gentle nudge to offer myself up for this assignment and I believe that the revised appointment is the right one for us. Likewise, I hope in turn that I can be the right pastor for Christ UMC at this time in their church’s life as well.

I will miss being on the bishop’s cabinet, however, an opportunity I have greatly enjoyed since January when I unofficially joined that group. I’ve been impressed, in fact, by the careful and prayerful work that the cabinet has done in making over a hundred appointments this spring, but never really rushing any of them. They work hard at trying to get it right for everyone involved, a task not at all as easy as it might seem from the outside.

And I have similarly observed a genuine concern on the part of all of my colleagues, particularly our bishop, to try to discern what is needed the most not just for the congregation or pastors involved, but for the mission field around each appointment too. In the words of Mr. Wesley, we ought always to be concerned for those persons who are not yet in “the household of faith” but are “groaning” so to be.

Technically, I will continue to be appointed to the Center for the next two months, teaching Methodist History for Perkins in July before beginning the pastorate at Christ UMC on September 1. And this will enable me to set the record for the shortest tenure ever recorded on the Texas Annual Conference Cabinet.

Years from now, in fact, I suspect I might actually be a trivia question within the conference lore–perhaps even the “Kevin Costner of the Cabinet” whom some might recall was actually cast in the 1983 classic film The Big Chill, but whose scenes were entirely edited out before the movie’s actual release. I’ll be curious to see, thus, whether I am photo-shopped out of the official cabinet picture that was taken just a week or so ago while at conference!

As much as we never saw it coming, thus, I am curiously hopeful that this sudden change of plans will put us smack dab in the middle of God’s Will for our lives, something that often we have only discovered after we arrived there.

But then, after all, how wrong can you really go when you end up back where you began, resting in the Arms of God?

Ā 

 

 

 

 

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15 Responses to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office

  1. Kathe says:

    Dear Pastor Temple, You may remember that I am a 3 times great granddaughter of a Methodist Itinerate Preacher. šŸ™‚ Bob and I are confident that you and Julie are following God`s leading and that you will be a blessing and be blessed by your willingness to accept this unforeseen assignment. Your wonderful sense of humor remains intact! All good wishes.
    Bob and Kathe B.

  2. Congratulations on your new, new appointment! I’m excited to be serving in the same district as you. As much as your voice will be missed around the conference leadership, it would have been a shame not to have that voice in a pulpit week in & week out. Prayers & peace for the transition ahead.

  3. Nancy Schulz says:

    Heard this morning & I’m sure we’ll chat on this trip but YAY for Christ UMBaptistC. Great folks down that way, as I’m sure you know – well, at least the Emmaus & Kairos ones. šŸ™‚ Try, while you’re there, to edit the name so fondly given by one of our brothers in white who sang there. šŸ™‚ They are gonna love you – how can they not??? You’re Chap & Julie!!!! See ya in a few hrs.

  4. Amy Burnham Guzman says:

    Chap, I am so excited to have you and Julie coming to minister to our church, CUMCSL! Can’t wait; September 1st can’t get here fast enough!

  5. Barbara Burnham says:

    I was in church this morning for the announcement and am still smiling! Welcome to CUMCSL. We are blessed beyond measure to have you and Julie pastor us. Let me know if you guys need anything or if I can help in any way from this end.

  6. Bill Mallett says:

    Dr. Temple,
    I am a member of CUMC-SL and this morning was surprised to hear that a pastor had already been named to come this fall. I’m grateful that you stepped forward when you became aware of our need and have heard so many positive things about you and your wife Julie. I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to meet prior to your official start date, but if not, please accept my welcome to CUMC. May God and our congregation make your transition as smooth as possible.

    In Christ,

    Bill

  7. I guess that kinda makes me the opening act, eh? BTW, your amazing facility with languages was affirmed again this morning, this time by your soon-to-be DS. :^)

  8. Ann Lindsey says:

    I heard in Sunday School that a new pastor Chapel something was coming…..I replied Temple. I am so thrilled to hear that you are coming as I was a member of Ashford UMC around 1989 or so. I have never forgotten your Easter Sermon after you had been at the hospital all night with a dying church member. Looking forward to seeing you on 9-1-14.

  9. Chap, I and my family at Christ UMC Sugar Land are quite excited about your appointment and your accepting the call to come minister with us. Welcome back home to Rio de los Brazos de Dios, resting in the Arms of God! We eagerly await your and Julie’s arrival. You’ll find us to be a welcoming church!
    Steve & Leah Matthews
    Kelsey, Marisa, Mitch & Kevin

  10. Ronda Walker says:

    Chap and Juliette,

    What an interesting past few months we have shared. Best wishes on the new appointment. What a lucky congregation! That little charge, called CUMC in Sugarland is blest to be receiving both of you and your little, expanding family.

    You and Julie better relish this break in The Holy Land, for when it us over you both will need to put on your most comfy running gear and get down to the business at hand. It will be interesting to see what you both will accomplish next.

    I particularily love what Rev. Josh Hale, said about what a shame it might have been to not have you in the pulpit weekly. I pictured you making the rounds to troubled churches on Sunday mornings, to set them straight with a one day sermon, miracle repair. Hey, it could happen. Especially, when we really let the Spirit do the leading.

    Enjoy the next chapter in that great book of life. To think you wasted energy concerned about a long commute to downtown. My, isn’t Our God, a playful one?

    Much love to all. Go in Peace.

    Shalom,

    Gary and Ronda Walker

  11. Welcome (Bienvenue, Bienvenido, Benvenuto, Kalosorisma)! We are excited for your arrival at CUMC, and look forward to getting to know you!
    Steve and Mary Beth Yarbrough

  12. David says:

    Dear Chap,

    Wow!!! Our God always deals with us in unexpected ways. I believe if God ever pitched, God would be known for the curve ball. I was worried about you going on the cabinet because I know you are a great preacher and pastor. Seems that God has taken care of everything. May God bless you and your family in this new mission field.

    In Christ,

    David

  13. Elizabeth Nixon says:

    Dear Chap,
    Of course your servant’s heart would direct you to Christ UMC.
    You and Julie make a wonderful team spreading God’s word and love.
    As much as we will miss you, we know you were put there for such a time as this.
    The adventure never ends!
    In Him,
    Rob and Elizabeth

  14. Bryan Tullos says:

    Chap;
    Just a word of welcome.
    looking forward to you being with us at CUMC-SL,
    yic
    Becky & Bryan Tullos

  15. Carolyn says:

    Chap, Congratulations to you and Julie!! The congregation is blessed!

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