In my study, I ran across a publicity picture of me from the first year I was in Columbia. It was taken in a tall building downtown with 1978 Columbia in the background.
The city has changed a lot and so have I.
The skyline has grown. The size of the city has grown. I’ve gotten gray hair. My chin isn’t as firm. But what a phenomenal joy it has been to be your pastor—to have raised my children in this city and in this church, to have known you the way I have, to have been blessed and helped by you—some of you in profound ways over long periods of time, some of you in occasional ways that were equally profound and affected me in more ways than you could know.
There’s a song addressed to the Lord that says, “How can I say thanks for the things that You have done for me?” I feel the same way toward you.
I’ve been wrestling with this letter for the past week. My problem is not having too little to say; it’s having too much to say. My family has loved being part of this church. My children have grown up in a church where they didn’t have to watch their dad get beat up in business meetings or argued with about silly things. You’ve allowed us to be ourselves. You’ve never required of my family more than we could give. You’ve been kind to me in every way, supportive, and helpful. When I needed to be told I should take another path, you were kind in how you told me, and I needed to hear it. I baptized both Stephen and Elizabeth and now my grandchildren in this church—it can’t get better than that!
I just wish I could go on and on for page after page.
I’ll especially remember the night we voted to relocate from Woodrow Street. The church was packed. People were standing in the aisles, down the side walls, and along the back wall of the balcony. When it came time to vote, I said, “It appears to me that the vote is unanimous.” You began to clap, then you began to cheer, then you got on your feet to clap and cheer.
I stood at the front and wept. I still weep. I could not believe it. I was so afraid that this would hurt some people who had been in the old location all their lives, and I didn’t want to do that. It was such a joy to see this church be united in this great cause, even though I know there were differences of opinion.
I also remember when we all gathered out on the front lawn of our current location to outline the new worship center that would be built. The builders had put chalk on the ground so we’d know where to stand. Coates Crew took the picture from the roof of the old worship center. To see all of you out there lined up as the church getting ready to build the building that would house the church was thrilling to me and a great moment in my life. For the rest of my life when I return to Columbia, I will ride down Forest Drive and think about what God did through us together.
I will love you for the rest of my life. You have no idea how much. (I’m choking up now as I write it. ) Thank you for being brothers and sisters to me. Thank you for loving me in ways that I’m not sure any other church could have. You accepted me as I was. You helped me be better than I was.
I know you will love George in the same way you loved me. What a great find he was by the grace of God. I look forward to seeing what the Lord is going to do through him in you for the years he has here.
Thank you for being a great church. Thank you for loving me and my family and loving one another. God bless you all.
Your Eternally Grateful Pastor,
3 WAYS TO LOVE THE LINCOLNS THIS SUNDAY
- Join us for a reception.
This Sunday, March 26
3-6pm in the Gathering Place
- Write a note. Please use the paper provided in Sunday School classes and the Gathering Place. Return your note to the designated spot in the Gathering Place by the end of Sunday's reception. The notes will be bound into a book for the Lincolns.
- Give to the love offering. We are taking up a love offering for the Lincolns. Bring your gift to the reception, give online, or bring your gift to the church office before April 30. Checks can be made payable to "Shandon Baptist Church." Please designate Lincoln Love Offering in the memo or when you give online.