Two By Two
Brian K. Blount
Union Presbyterian Seminary
Charge to the Congregation
On the Occasion of the Installation of Jarrett and Meg Peery McLaughlin
as Pastors of University Presbyterian Church, Chapel Hill, NC
20 October 2019
It is an honor to be with you this afternoon for this service of worship and the marking of this installation. My role today is to issue you — the gathered community at University Church — a charge.
This is similar to what we Presbyterians do at the end of every worship service. At the threshold moment at the end of worship you are charged to go out into God’s world living out the faith you have professed and practiced here.
You are sent out buoyed by the reminder of God’s promises and God’s grace, which will enable you to do far more than you dare even imagine.
Today the threshold space is a bit different for we aren’t sending you out the doors quite yet.
The threshold space we mark right now is the transition to new pastoral leadership.
This is a significant threshold.
After 26 years with Bob Dunham serving as Pastor of this congregation and two years in transition, the move into new pastoral relationships, new voices from the pulpit, new faces showing up in the tender moments of your lives, new styles of leadership, …moving from one pastor to co-pastors….this is a significant threshold, with important marching orders to be given.
I admit to you that I feel some awkwardness in this role, given that we don’t know each other well. It seems presumptuous of me to charge you when I live and work 300 miles away in Washington, DC, though I have fond memories of sitting in these pews with my grandparents as a girl and then later as an undergraduate. I spent many an hour fixing PCM dinners and teaching fifth grade Sunday school during those four years.
What I know about you is from 20 years ago, from the ways you shaped me and Meg and Jarrett and so many others in campus ministry. And what I know by your reputation as colleagues have served here in this place.
I know this congregation as
a leader in mission here in Chapel Hill and around the globe,
a leader in gospel preaching
a leader in interfaith dialogue,
a leader in ministry with youth and children, and
a leader in campus ministry.
I know you hold up the very best of our tradition with the rich liturgy and glorious music of your worship services.
I know you are willing to do new things and take risks….the most recent of which is calling not one but two new pastors to serve together alongside you in this place.
At this threshold moment, despite the awkwardness of offering a charge to those I don’t know well, I do so because Meg and Jarrett are some of my dearest friends and most trusted colleagues. There are four things I want to ask of you today.
First, Trust them. They will earn your trust over time, but as that unfolds, trust that God has already been at work in them and in you. Come to them with your vulnerability and let them know your true joys and true sorrows. They are gifted at holding that space. Trust their instincts. Give them some space to make changes and take risks. They will not do so blithely – they respect you too much for that. And if you find yourself getting antsy or uncomfortable with decisions or changes, consider that it might be the movement of the Spirit – for She often works in ways that are anything but comfortable. If those moments arise, risk trusting Meg and Jarrett with them. Talk to them about it. Discern together what the Spirit is doing.
Second, Support Meg and Jarrett as whole people. They will give you heart and soul and many many hours of their lives. They will also need time to be parents to Naomi, Caroline, and Zanna. And they will need time to cultivate their own spirits. You will have to get used to the two co-pastors going on vacation at the same time. It will be ok. In fact, remember they are married and you WANT them to go on vacation at the same time. Be concerned when they are NOT going on vacation together.
Third, Allow Meg and Jarrett to grow in their own calling and their own discipleship, even as they lead you and encourage you in that growth. The church is a funny place where those of us in our early 40s are considered young. They are young. God is not done with them, just as God is not done with any of you, regardless of your age. Don’t peg them to a particular decision or put them in a box. Let the beauty of their complexity as children of God who are constantly being formed continue to surprise you, and let that encourage you in your own growth.
Lastly, enjoy them. You will come to know – and love – Jarrett’s sense of humor and eclectic hobbies. You will come to know – and love – Meg’s true delight in caring for people and noticing the ways God’s grace shoots through the messiness of the world. You will come to know their steady leadership of session and committees and staff. You will come to know the depth of their faith – and their struggles — through prayers and sermons and interaction. And you will come to know that one of their greatest gifts as individuals and partners is that they don’t take themselves or the workings of the church too seriously. They take the call of the gospel seriously – and they do so with delight and joy and a whole lot of intentionality. And they trust – to their cores – that nothing is outside of God’s love or God’s power to redeem.
Trust Jarrett and Meg. Support them as whole people. Allow them to grow. Enjoy them.
But more than any of that, the most important thing you can do as you enter this new chapter together as congregation and pastors is to remember who you are.
You are the CHURCH. You are the ones sanctified by Christ as holy, covenant people… which is to be prophetic and gracious,
kind and generous,
loving and righteous,
to be part of God’s ongoing action to bring light and hope and life into the world.
So be that church.
Y’all have experienced a lot of change over the last few years. Change always leaves undercurrents of anxiety and grief at what is lost. Because you are God’s own people, trust that the days ahead of you matter to God just as much as the days behind. Trust that the Holy Spirit is working in and among you – in the search committee, in this new model of co-pastors, and in Meg and Jarrett — and that, if you let Her, the Spirit will be able to do within you far more than you dare imagine.
Friends, Church: may it be so.