Dear Christ Church,
It was just four and half short years ago that I first learned about Christ Church Austin. Just 54 months ago. Considering all that has happened since that point, all the blessings received, and the growth cultivated, it is very difficult to believe.
This Sunday is my last as associate rector at Christ Church.
Those are hard-to-believe and heavy words for me. They mean the closing of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. They mean a significant change in the rhythms and relationships of daily and weekly life. They also mean it is time to say “thank you.”
I remember, after our interview for the position, processing with Shannon and her saying to me “I feel like we could trust these people with Lucy (our then 5 month old daughter).” As young parents, those were meaningful words for us. They proved true; both of our children have thrived in this joyful Gospel community. Included in those words was the intuition that Christ Church was the kind of place, composed of the kind of people, to whom we could entrust ourselves. Shannon’s words, as usual, were very prescient. We have thrived in this joyful Gospel community. Thank you.
At Christ Church we have become more fully who God has called us to be. I know of no higher testimony of worth that I could give to a church. Since day one we have been welcomed well, received well, and loved well. As a result of our time at Christ Church, because of the ways you have loved us, we have become more human, we have grown in our vocational callings, experienced healing we did not know we needed, and grown in the knowledge of God and His love for us. Thank you.
As a priest I want to specifically thank you for the ways you have encouraged me, been patient with me, and called forth in me my identity as a priest. Thank you for allowing me to grow in this calling. Your kind words, your willingness to listen and come alongside, your willingness to celebrate and press into the presence of God with me have all been a tremendous blessing. I am already excited for how I know you will welcome and bless Christ Church’s new Associate Rector, whoever they may be. I know they will be profoundly edified through the privilege of serving this extraordinary community. Y’all are an easy congregation to serve, to love, an easy congregation “to priest”. This is the place where I was ordained and first served as a priest, and will forever find special purchase in my heart.
Saying “goodbye” to Christ Church is difficult to do. The only reason we are able to do so, is that we are convicted that this what obedience to Jesus means for us in this time. Serving at Church of the Cross is the next step for us to become more fully who God has called us to be. So, even though it is hard to do, we go, with heavy but expectant hearts. We go with hearts that are full. Thank you for releasing us, and sending us out with so much love and support. We are treasuring up all the richness of the blessings we have received from God through you.
We rest in the reality of changed relationships, not ended relationships. We are already looking forward to continued Gospel partnership in Austin in the months and years ahead. What’s more, we look forward to rejoicing with you over all the ways God’s renewal of all things will continue in and through the lives of these two churches. We look forward to the way what is difficult now will result in much to rejoice over in the years to come. By His grace, may it be so!
I remain deeply excited for the future life of Christ Church as a community that announces, embodies, and demonstrates that the kingdom of God is at hand. I look forward to cheering y’all on from across town in the seasons to come. I know you’ll do the same for us.
As I conclude this, I am reminded of the very first contribution I made to Cliffnotes, way back on November 17th, 2011. In that enews, written a month after we arrived in Austin and entitled “What I See”, I described Christ Church as an open-hearted, confident, and, ultimately, beloved community. All those are true, but what especially stands out to me now is the last one. Beloved. Christ Church is beloved, by us, yes, but, most importantly, by a living God. That makes all the difference. That reality will carry the day for Christ Church in this time of transition and into the future.
The future of Christ Church, of us Coelhos, of Church of the Cross is held fast in the reality that we are beloved. Beloved by one who is the king, as we’ll celebrate this week on Christ the King Sunday. Even as we move through this fraught and exciting birth of a new Gospel community, we are held fast by the character and competence of our shepherd. He is so very good to us. Our future is secure. For that we can all say “thank you.”
May the Lord richly bless you, and bless Christ Church into the future. I thank God at every remembrance of you.
See you Sunday!