Pastor Gabe's Transition
From Gabe Gilliam
Endings are never easy. They are hard for obvious reasons because it usually means a transition that leaves you missing people, places and the comfortable known. Beyond the obvious, endings are especially hard because they foster liminal states. “Liminal” simply means an in-between place. Adolescence is a liminal place because you are no longer a child and not yet an adult. Engagement is a liminal place because you are no longer single and not yet married. Liminality is not merely a time of transition but truly a shift between two major realities.
In recent months, I have found myself in a liminal state. I have come to realize it is time for me to transition out of pastoral ministry. If I were simply moving to another church to take another call, this would be a letter about transitions but this isn’t that. For some time, I have been feeling a nudge to practice what I have often preached by seeking to incarnate my faith beyond the church walls in a new vocation.
With this in mind, I have felt “in-between” for some time. I have wrestled with many questions: isn’t a pastor supposed to be a pastor for life? Am I forsaking my calling? What should/could I do for vocation beyond the walls of the church? Like Jacob wrestling with the Angel in Genesis 32, I have struggled with these questions and many like them. However, I have come to realize that God is calling me out of the comfort of vocational ministry and into the Kingdom effort of living out my faith in the workplace.
I am not exactly sure why God has brought me to this inflection but I rest easy knowing that we serve a God who often surprises us and always takes care of us. I have also noticed a theme in the Bible wherein God often uses liminal states to foster great spiritual growth and stretching. Think of Abraham and Sarah leaving Ur, think of David leaving home to venture out into the Valley of Elah and think of the disciples leaving their nets to blindly follow a carpenter from Nazareth. One of the greatest recurring commands of the Bible is to “go.” Go to a land I will show you, go in faith out of slavery and go and make disciples of all nations. In the Old and New Testaments, God asks his people to step out of the known into the unknown. He asks them to trust Him in their liminal states and expectantly look towards the horizon for His faithful provision.
With all of this in mind, I have chosen to listen to God and step out in faith. I have announced my resignation to the Elders and now to the congregation of Saratoga Federated Church. I know in times like this, it is in our nature to delve deeper and find out “what’s really going on?” My hope is that in the last six and a half years, you have known me to be transparent and forthcoming. This is what’s really going on. I am not burned out, I feel invigorated. I am not running away, I am following in the steps of a wild Messiah towards a new adventure. I am not leaving the Church, I am seeking the Kingdom.
Despite the excitement I have for this next stage of life and the clarity God has gifted to me in this process, I want you to know this has been the most difficult decision in my life. Many tears have been shed and many sleepless nights have been had in the process of making this decision. While I am certain that God has placed this new call on my life, it has not lessened the blow to my soul to depart from this beloved community. This sense of loss and pain will take time to heal but I am looking forward to the way God will weave this for the greater good in all of our lives.
I want you to know you are in great hands. The Elders of this church are bold, strong and faithful. The Pastoral staff is among the most talented I have ever seen and I have full confidence in their abilities to care for and disciple this community of faith. Together, the Elders and Pastors will assuredly help navigate SFC towards God’s best for this precious community. I hope you know I have loved you and loved being your pastor. You have cared for me and loved me during this wonderful season of life. You have overseen the birth of two of our children and you have helped raise all three of them. You have cared for my wife and made her feel always at home among you. And you have tolerated my incessant blathering about the merits of the Dallas Cowboys. For all of these things and more, this church will always hold a special place in my heart.
As for what is next for me, God has led me to an extraordinary opportunity. I will be going to work for Cisco to focus on community engagement. Cisco has prioritized getting their employees to give back to their communities through service and generosity, and my job there will be to help make that happen. By giving advance notice to the leadership of this transition, my hope is that SFC will get a head start on finding my replacement while giving my family the runway for a healthy departure. In all of this, the leadership of SFC has thoughtfully taken steps so that SFC and the Gilliam family are well-positioned to flourish.
Of all the themes I have preached on, the most important one has been “Life.” The abundant and eternal life God offers to us all. And as you probably already know, life is full of liminal moments. From this time forward, you and I are both entering into a liminal stage of life. We are flying through the air after releasing one trapeze and trusting that we can glide through the air to catch the next. We serve a loving God who wants us to know the Life He offers and share it with as many people as possible. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ give all of us grace and peace as we seek Him and trust that He will faithfully finish the good work He has started in us.
Peace and Grace,