Vestry Update as Cliff’s Sabbatical Comes to an End

This week’s guest post is by John Nehme, Christ Church parishioner and Vestry Senior Warden.

Dear Christ Church,

What comes to mind when you think of home?

When Rachel and I walked into our first service at Christ Church twelve years ago, we felt an abiding sense of “home.” We had that life-giving comfort drawn from familiar places and community. A spiritual settledness from encountering Jesus through His word, table, and people. And from witnessing emotionally healthy leadership exhibit a humble and authentic love for Christ.

This week the Warners have their own homecoming, returning Sunday after seven months on sabbatical. Cliff and Christine, we have deeply missed you and are thrilled to welcome you back!

Thank you, Christ Church, for praying for the Warners and the parish during this season. Cliff wrote, “I’ve been so grateful for this gift of time and headspace to allow God to take me to places in my relationship with Him, and with my family, that simply could not have happened in the normal course of pastoral leadership.”

We’ll have more opportunities to hear from Cliff about the sabbatical in the coming weeks. One of those opportunities is the Parish Retreat (breakdance party anyone?!), so be sure to sign up before registration closes.

As I’ve reflected on these last months, one thing is clear: the Lord has been faithful to lead, protect, and provide for Christ Church. I was reminded of Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

During Cliff’s sabbatical in 2014, God provided the property at 112 Medina. This season, God provided the people we needed. These are worth listing:

  • Herb Bailey as Evangelist in Residence
  • Beau Pruitt as Director of Student Ministries
  • Kester Smith as Small Groups Pastor
  • Julie Chewning as Communications Manager
  • Kim Polk as Executive Director
  • Laura Smith promoted as Director of Operations
  • Claire Ratliff on maternity leave, transitioning to Care Pastor
  • Bill Walker commissioned as Executive Director of Hill House, continuing to support vocation at Christ Church

God similarly provided financial resources. Christ Church, you are a generous people! If you attended the parish meeting in September, you know we have a healthy balance sheet. We were able to give more to local and global missions, and we were able to care well for staff.

There were hundreds of ways you bore one another’s burdens. With Jesus as our head, you’ve been the body of Christ. You’ve shared meals with our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness; you’ve made hospital visits; you’ve stood vigil near deathbeds; you’ve celebrated new life; you’ve given hugs, wise counsel, laughter, and the gift of tears. You have been friends with Jesus, and friends with each other.

Finally, I’m filled with deep gratitude for Matt, the leadership team, and the entire Christ Church staff. They have led with a steady hand and carried a heavy load with light hearts. They have been hopeful, creative, and persevering. They are a gift to us as they labor to advance God’s kingdom through the church.

When we worship this Sunday, let’s give thanks to God for the return of the Warners and His faithfulness to Christ Church. As the Psalmist wrote, “When they said, ‘Let’s go to the house of God,’ my heart leaped for joy.”



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