Dear Bethesda Family,
I write today to announce my resignation as Rector of the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. I have accepted a call to become the Canon Evangelist for the Diocese of Southern Virginia. Eli and I will say farewell and celebrate our grace-filled 10 years as part of this parish on Sunday, June 27, then take a bit of time to relocate and rest before beginning this new ministry.
I cannot adequately convey my profound gratitude to God for calling me to serve here these ten years and to each of you for sharing in all the richness of being a part of this lively community of faith. It’s hard to remember what our life was like even a year ago, let alone ten years ago when I started. Over these years, we have seen God at work in so many amazing and surprising ways: through cultivating a habit of welcome that draws newcomers into our life; through developing outreach ministries that involve more pa-rishioners every year in hands-on service to those in need; through nurturing the spiritual growth of our children and youth; and through myriad other creative ministries.
Even more important, we have grown a tremendous and gifted assemblage of leaders in all areas of the parish. We have one of the most faithful, caring, and thoughtful vestries I have ever worked with who will ably navigate this period of transition as the parish re-flects and then calls your next Rector over the coming months. Bethesda is poised and equipped for dynamic new leadership in mission and ministry and will attract the very best clergy in its search.
I have been wrestling with a sense of call to a new season of ministry and praying about how, when, and where might be right to take the leap of faith to embrace a new calling. Consecrated fifteen months ago, just before the pandemic hit, the Bishop of Southern Virginia, the Right Rev. Susan Haynes, spent her first year as bishop building relation-ships, listening, and learning. This past February, she unveiled her strategic vision for the Diocese at their Annual Council in the form of five initiatives around the Baptismal Cov-enant. She then began to consider how to effectively implement those initiatives, and her staff approached me several weeks later about joining her team to lead that implemen-tation. The work aligns so beautifully with my passions and the ways the Holy Spirit is shaping me. They include working with parishioners across that diocese to nurture their spiritual lives, supporting congregations in developing ministries of Evangelism, building more life-giving connections between congregations, and developing ministries to ad-dress two critical issues of our day: racial justice and the stewardship of creation.
Whenever a rector leaves a parish, the parish, the rector, and the community necessarily encounter mixed feelings of gratitude and grief, along with a combination of hope and anxiety about what comes next. Bishop Eaton and his staff along with the Vestry will be in regular contact and will chart a faithful path to the calling of a new rector in due course. For now, we have some holy time to celebrate and give thanks to God for the privilege and blessing of these ten years together.
I hope to have a chance to say good-bye to each of you personally, though that will cer-tainly be challenging given the pandemic. To that end, our Zoom Middle Way tomorrow will be a Town Hall where we can talk together about this news. Sunday’s Zoom coffee hour will provide an additional opportunity for conversation. If you’re not able to join us, and whether or not we get another chance to talk over these coming weeks, know that I am deeply grateful for you and for the life we have shared. Know that I am a better per-son, Christian, and priest for these past years together. Know that I hold you in my heart with love and with hope for all God has in store for you.
The Rev. James Harlan
It is with grateful heart for a season of ministry at Bethesda-by-the-Sea that I write to say I have accepted a call to be the Rector of The Falls Church in the eponymous Northern Virginia city and thereby tender my resignation as Associate for Christian Formation, Pastoral Care, and Outreach. My last Sunday at Bethesda will be 30 May, and I begin my duties in Falls Church on 1 July.
It has been an honor to serve, first as an assistant and then as an associate, at Bethesda, and I have grown to love this place and her people deeply. You have allowed me to walk alongside you for these six years, teaching, preaching, praying, blessing, listening, and loving, and I shall be forever grateful for that humbling privilege. You have cared for and accepted Bob and me, and we have grown together as priest and parish. You have challenged me, and I have challenged you. You have invited me into your lives and into your hearts; you have allowed me to baptize your babies, marry you, and bury your loved ones. You have opened your hands to me at the communion rail, and I have been humbled to place Jesus in those outstretched hands. You have taught me much, and I have much left to learn.
Bob and I look forward to this next chapter of our ministry in the Church and are excited about the possibilities that lay ahead at The Falls Church. Founded in 1734 and counting George Mason and George Washington as early vestrymen, The Falls Church is a beacon of Jesus’ light and love that has survived wars, periods of neglect, and schism, to be a vibrant and grace-filled community dedicated to living out the Baptismal Covenant in word and deed. Guided by the Holy Spirit, their search for a rector has been thoughtful and prayerful, and I am thrilled to be called to lead that community as we seek to build the Kingdom of God together.
As we are able, we cherish the opportunity to say goodbye in the coming weeks and acknowledge that farewells in a pandemic world are limited. Know that I hold each member of this parish in my heart and in prayers for the sacred community that exists here, with anticipation for the good works that will continue to bear fruit in this holy place. Thank you for our time together.
The Rev. Burl Salmon
Associate for Christian Education, Pastoral Care, and Outreach