Church Street is pleased to welcome Rev. Catherine Clark Nance, Senior Pastor, and Rev. Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor, to our clergy leadership team. They join Rev. Palmer Cantler, Associate Pastor, Rev. Dr. Jan Buxton Wade, Minister of Spiritual Enrichment, as well as our Visitation Pastors, Rev. Pat Clendenen and Rev. Andy Ferguson. Enjoy this introductory letter from Senior Associate Pastor Tim Best:
Dear Church Family,
Greetings to each of you! As I begin my ministry here with you all, I find the simple words of Paul from Ephesians 1:15-17 to be a powerful prayer.
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.”
I share these words from St. Paul’s letter for several reasons. First, they are good words for the time in which we find ourselves. Except for a small handful of folks that I had met before Covid and before I was projected to be one of your pastors, I have not met you. I have, however, heard of your faith. I have known many of your former pastors; I have met candidates for ministry from Church Street; I have been a part of Holston Conference for over a decade and have seen much of the fruit of your ministry beyond Knoxville. I have been praying intentionally for you, for all of the clergy and staff, and for our shared ministry since this spring when I was informed I would be serving with this storied community of faith. I have prayed that we can gather safely. I have prayed for the countless ministries and projects that have been postponed, cancelled, or reimagined.
Paul gives us a cue for our faith, even in the midst of crisis. Paul unites his prayers with his thanksgivings. Even as I pray for our transition, our return to worship, our longing for some sense of “normal,” I give thanks. Last week I joined a meeting to discuss the Summer Lecture Series. I was blown away by the effort that had been expended to reformat this annual program. I have already begun to connect with Sunday school classes that are meeting over zoom. My heart is full with thanksgiving for such commitment to the gospel and one to another. As Christians we are Easter people, a people of hope, even when our Easter celebrations, our farewells, and our welcomes are a stunted version of what we would like. Nonetheless, these things have happened. Our doors have been shut, but ministry hasn’t stopped. I have heard from some of our members that the shutdown and online meetings have drawn them closer to one another. The Nave is empty on Sunday mornings, but worship carries on. The beauty of our choir has even found a way to shine in this moment by gathering virtually and revisiting recordings. There is much for which to be thankful here at Church Street!
The climax of Paul’s greeting is about Jesus. I haven’t included the whole paragraph, but Paul quickly turns his focus on the God revealed in Jesus. I am encouraged that our shared focus is on Jesus, too. The challenges we face and the work we have ahead are all manageable in the light of Jesus’ love and grace. Though the times are strange I am overwhelmed with hope because of Jesus. This past Sunday I ended my pastoral prayer with the words of the children’s hymn: “Jesus loves me.” Many years ago now, a well-known pastor and theologian, Karl Barth, was asked at the end of his life what had been the most important thing he had learned while teaching and in writing his 38 volumes on theology. Barth reportedly responded with a smile as he began to sing “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” My prayer is that as we grow and serve together, our hearts may be transformed by Jesus as we come to know him ever more fully and faithfully.
Rev. Timothy J. Best