May 29, 2023

Dear Members and Friends of Cedar Hills United Church of Christ,

I am writing to confirm what I shared with you at the close of worship yesterday; that I will be retiring from active ministry this fall, specifically, on October 15.

This has not been an easy decision, but it is a clear decision. It helps to know that the church is healthy and enjoys strong leadership and a loving spirit.

This coming fall I will have begun my 21st year here. They have been challenging years for us all: the economic crisis of 2008, ongoing wars, deep divisions at home, national reckonings with violence against women and racial injustice, and a pandemic which claimed millions of lives, took its toll on essential workers, and physically isolated us from one another for over two years. We responded throughout by listening to God’s spirit, becoming an Open and Affirming Church, a Welcoming and Sanctuary Church, and writing a Covenant of Community. We remodeled, fixed and re-fixed the roofs, and opened Mary Mac House to shelter women transitioning out of domestic violence shelters. We went online with meetings and worship services and once again, widened our understanding of God’s presence and reach. We are working to rebuild a westside interfaith alliance.

When I was called here in 2002 I expected it to be a short term ministry. What a surprise! I didn’t anticipate this being such a healthy and lively congregation. I didn’t anticipate coming to love you individually and collectively as I have. I certainly didn’t anticipate serving here until the end of my career.
And yet here we are.

It’s time for me to explore life beyond the ministry, finally dig into my piano lessons, find an old fogies dragon boat crew, spend more time in my canoe, and visit Vienna for the Christmas markets and music. I’m eager to devote more time to climate activism. And I’m eager to spend more time exploring my own backyard. I hear there are beaches and bird refuges and even Shakespeare festivals in Oregon!

It's time for you to spread your wings too, to try new things, to receive new ideas and new energy. I’m almost as excited for you as I am for me.

The council will very shortly appoint a committee to hire an interim minister. Interim ministers are specially trained to work with congregations in transition. Expect some soul searching and visioning as a part of this. At some point a search committee will be gathered, and that committee will begin the task of calling a long-term pastor. The whole process will likely last around one and a half to two years. But not to worry: it’s an invigorating time in the life of the church and I suspect you will find the spirit of God to be unusually vibrant among you.

October 15 will be my last Sunday as your pastor. That gives us lots of time to plan, and lots of time to say our goodbyes. Ministerial ethics require that I remove myself completely from the lives of the church and parishioners for at least a full year – including social media. There’s much wisdom behind that, and it gives you and your new leadership space to flourish without any interference from me.

Before I leave, I plan to lead a four-week class in the fall for newcomers and for those who would like an overview of the Biblical and theological insights that have formed the core of our ministry together. I’ve already scheduled a new member reception for October 15 – and nothing would please me more than welcoming a large and enthusiastic new member class on that day.

We can discuss all of this at more length at the June 4 Spring Congregational Meeting, and on Sunday June 11 when our Conference Minister, Tyler Connoley, will preach here and hold an open forum afterward.

The Spirit works in mysterious ways, and my time at Cedar Hills UCC is certainly proof of that. I trust that the Spirit will bring your next minister here, and your next, and with them and with God’s spirit working through all of you together will come even more love, more life, and more light.

Mary Sue Evers