My Dear Friends,

It seems like only a short time ago that I received a phone call from Jack Chapman, who was chair of our Board of Deacons, asking me to come to Suffolk to interview for the position of Supply Minister. It was, in fact, in March of 1996. The pulpit of Suffolk Christian Church was to soon be vacant upon the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens, who had accepted a call to Peace United Church of Christ in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Several months into my weekly duties as Supply Minister, Jim Thorsen, chair of the church’s pulpit committee, asked if I would be interested in interviewing for a call as full-time pastor. I didn’t want to reveal just how eager I was to begin those interviews . . . I tried to be “cool” but I am sure I failed miserably. I was very eager to have that conversation!

As you know, our church did, indeed, extend to me a call, which I accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. The months became years and all too soon Carmen and I were approaching twenty-five years with you here in Suffolk.

I truly regret not being able to share the news of our impending retirement with each one of you personally, but there was no way that could be done. I made the announcement to the church at the 11 am worship service on July 18, and followed that up with a ChurchCast telephone call just after that service concluded.

I announced our intentions confidentially to Dana Bilby, chair of our deacons and Evelyn Jones, vice-chair of our deacons well in advance of the public announcement. This has given them time to consider next steps and make plans for leadership going forward. I am indebted to my (and your) good friend, the Rev. T. Floyd “Skip” Irby, who has been serving as a consultant as to steps to be taken going forward. Skip has special training in interim ministry and has been a valuable resource.

Carmen’s and my last Sunday with you will be September 26.

We will remain in Suffolk. We have lived here longer than any other place in our lives and this is now “home” for us. You will see us out and about, but please understand that ministerial ethics require that we completely step back from the church and allow those who will follow to establish their own ministry.

Special mention and deep gratitude is due to Dr. Bruce Havens, my immediate predecessor; the late Rev. Tom Britton, who had been an interim pastor here on several occasions; and the late Dr. Bob Marr, our beloved Pastor Emeritus and faithful mentor to me. Their encouragement, guidance, and friendship has been wonderful.

If there are special requests for my presence or participation in weddings or funeral services, or other church events, those requests will be with the approval of our deacons. We both, Carmen and I, care very much, of course, about the health and welfare of our great church and will continue to be your great supporters and prayer partners.

May God bless you and God bless Suffolk Christian Church!
Love, Michael