Farewell to Pastor Dave

From Cheri Fallon, News-Linc Editor

Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave McMillan

The pews in our sanctuary were filled with well-wishers for Pastor Dave McMillan on June 18. It was his last Sunday at Lincoln Park before moving on to his appointment at St Paul’s UMC, North Wilmington DE, where he’ll live and marry his fiancée, Kim Walker, in the next year.

It was a bittersweet, combined service and farewell reception for a beloved Pastor, who has served at LP twice — as Senior Pastor for the last six years, and as Assistant Pastor in the early 90’s.

“It’s been all about the relationships,” says Pastor Dave, of his years at Lincoln Park. “I hope we’ve been able to provide pastoral care and a meaningful worship experience, reminding us of something larger — God’s grace over everything.”

The farewell worship included music from both the Praise Band and Beverly Perella’s Chancel Choir; a tribute from Worship Leader Becky Chadwick; and a presentation by Lay Leader Linda Lee and Staff-Parish Chair Dan Christopher of a pottery plate, commemorating Dave’s service here, and a scrapbook of pictures, messages, and memories.

Becky, in her heartfelt tribute, noted qualities that most of us know to be true about Pastor Dave: his “compassion, understanding, his commitment to his flock, his willingness to be open about who he is, his spiritual guidance.” Dave has, she says, “the ability to touch on what is wrong and help, lending a hand wherever it’s needed. And, with his sense of humor and strength of character, “He showed us how to try to be Jesus on this earth,” says Becky.

The messages in the scrapbook are telling of the fine relationships and meaningful connections Pastor Dave made with his flock:

 

You have been a friend to all.

— Nancy Villecco

Dave always remembered my Mom when she visited.

— Anonymous

Thank you for your empathy and your enjoyable, insightful leadership of our faith congregation.

— Tom Blakely

I love how you put a joke in every now and then when you spoke.

— Anonymous Youth

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your ministry and never had the desire to “sleep-in.”

— Beverly Ruffner

Pastor Dave gives a fresh perspective to well-known Bible stories.

— Anonymous

No one should be able to hit a golf ball that far.

— Dave Miller

With tears in our eyes and sweet wishes for Dave and Kim in our hearts, we say farewell to our Pastor. “How blessed our congregation is,” says Nancy Dettra, “to have had you as our pastor, twice!”

Thinking Out Loud – May 2017

I have always been prayerfully attempting to weave these moments together into a more intimate knowing of your story — your family, your aspirations, joys, and sorrows.

All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly and as privately as possible. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; … only by experiencing that ocean of sadness in a naked and immediate way do we come to be healed – which is to say, we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace.
– from Small Victories by Anne Lamott

Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave McMillan

The intensity of my grief may come as a surprise to some. Ours has possibly been an hour a week together on a Sunday morning, a hello and well-wishing at the front door after a service, a brief conversation in the Wagner Room catching up on children. For others, there have been additional hours spent in Bible Studies, Sunday School, over church meals, meetings, Trustee Workdays, and visits. But I hope you’ve known that for me it has always been more than this. That I have always been prayerfully attempting to weave these moments together into a more intimate knowing of your story — your family, your aspirations, joys, and sorrows. I hope you have known that when I look at you, I have always tried to see you whole.

There will be many things I’ll miss about Lincoln Park: my drive down the hill on Jefferson Boulevard into our tiny hamlet, our beautiful brick colonial church. An introvert by nature, I’ll miss my second story office (which was my bedroom for six years when I served as associate pastor) where I could escape to read, prepare Bible Studies, and write sermons, while listening to the sometimes steady flow of traffic below — of people stopping by to drop something off or speak with Marilyn. I’ll miss our sanctuary with its high white ceiling, tall window, and soothing green painted walls, the same paint used by the trustees in the parsonage living room and hallway, bringing everything full circle.

Of course, what I’ll miss most are the people. I feel fortunate to have been able to work with a gifted, dedicated staff. There has been many a Sunday when our Worship Leaders, Mark and Becky, and Bev, our organist, pianist and Music Director, have helped carry a service, especially when I’ve struggled. The Music Ministry at Lincoln Park, with our Praise Band, choirs, and special music has been inspiring. Marilyn, our Office Administrator and Bookkeeper, while often sleep deprived, has been a joy. Carl, our Sexton, is one of a kind. Kyle, our Youth Leader, has connected with our youth and has great promise. And our Nursery Attendants, Kathy and Kris, have been Godsends. What endears me most about our staff is that they love our church and it shows.

If I were to start expressing appreciation for members who’ve been special to me over the years, it would be a long list. Each of you, whether we’ve known each other for a long or short time, have been special to me in your own way. But let me say that I am very grateful for those of you who have accepted positions of leadership while I’ve been here. Your love and commitment for our church has made us a better people and has often made me look good in the process. Where would we be without those who are willing to accept the call to lead and serve in the church?

While I believe in my heart that my choice to move to a new congregation and soon marry is the Lord’s path for me, it is bittersweet. But, this only reminds me of what a meaningful and wonderful experience I have had here: how much I have felt loved. I will always have a special place in my heart for the folks at Lincoln Park.

A forewarning: I imagine several of you will be showing up in my future newsletter articles. If you do, please know that it will be with love.

Volunteers from Lincoln Park Join Others on Mission Trip to North Carolina

From Pastor Dave McMillan

Updated June 30, 2017

During the week of June 4–10, seven volunteers, including four from Lincoln Park, traveled to the United Methodist Disaster Response Center in Tarboro, North Carolina. Pastor Dave, Todd Beamesderfer, Dave Gehr, and Sue Race joined others there, working on 800 homes badly damaged by hurricanes of the past two years.

The United Methodist Church has committed two years to disaster relief in the Tarboro area. It also hopes to raise $15,000 for this cause, to match funds appropriated there by FEMA.

The “modest” homes there have been raised off the ground now, about three feet, but they have no walls or flooring, says Pastor Dave. “Our work — in the town of Princeville — included laying subflooring, dry walling, and putting in a kitchen. We got a lot done in a week. We met the families whose homes we worked on; it was meaningful.” Homeowners had little warning before evacuating for Hurricane Matthew, so they took little with them, and three weeks went by before they were allowed back into their homes.

The “quaint” town of Princeville was founded in 1865, the first town in America founded by freed slaves. “There’s a lot of Civil War history there,” says Dave.

Thinking Out Loud – March 2017

From Pastor Dave McMillan III

 

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were once foreigners in Egypt.
— Exodus 22:21

 

I’ve recently returned from a Winter Pastors’ School on the campus of Stetson University in Deland, Florida. One of our three speakers was Dr. Carol Newsom a Professor of Old Testament in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Her three day lecture was entitled “We are the Refugees: Our Biblical Ancestors as Displaced Persons, Refugees and Economic Migrants.”

Over three days, she reminded us of our biblical heritage as a people who have often lived as “strangers in a foreign land.” In the book of Genesis, God calls Abram to leave his country and father’s house to go to a land that God will show him. That land, of course, was Canaan, a land already long inhabited by other peoples. In the book of Exodus, due to a famine in the land, Jacob and his family migrate to Egypt where there is work and food enough to eat. In the book of Ruth, due to famine again, Elimelech, along with his wife Naomi and sons, “live for a while in the country of Moab” in hopes of finding work and food. In the book of II Kings, King Nebuchadnezzar tears down the walls of Jerusalem sending many of the inhabitants of Judah into exile in Babylon with some Jewish communities surviving there, in what is today modern day Iraq, for centuries. In Matthew’s gospel, afraid of King Herod’s decree for all male children under the age of two, living in Bethlehem, to be put to death, Joseph is warned in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and flee as refugees into Egypt. The Holy Family remained there until they received word that Herod had died.

Dr. Newsom then helped to remind us of our own personal stories of dislocation. My story is part of the great Irish migration to the new world which lasted for close to a century, from 1830 to 1920. In the early 1820’s, lacking work at home, many Irish immigrated to the states to help build the Erie Canal and later the railroad going west. The largest wave of Irish immigrants came over during the Great Irish Potato Famine in 1845-1849. Many of these immigrants settled in New York City and would come to comprise a large percentage of New York’s northern regiments during the Civil War. There was another wave of Irish immigrants seeking employment opportunities and a better life for their families during the early part of the Industrial Revolution, 1880-1900. In the early twentieth century, Irish immigrants in large numbers continued to come to the new world for economic reasons and, for some, to find a husband. With many of the men in Ireland having immigrated to America for close to a century, available men at home were apparently hard to find!

My grandmother, Mary Inkster of Donegal, County Donegal, and grandfather, David McMillan of Ballymoney, County Antrim, arrived and settled separately in Philadelphia in search of work and a more hopeful future in 1916. My grandmother worked as a bank teller and grandfather in a grocery store. They met and married in Philadelphia in their late twenties and went on to have six children, including their only son, my father, David Junior.

While the descendants of most of us who were gathered at the Pastors’ School for three days had immigrated from Western Europe seeking economic opportunities, some could trace their passage to the new world back through slave ships from the Ivory Coast during the eighteenth century. Another Pastor, a Jewish convert to Christianity, could trace his passage to his grandparents who had emigrated during the Civil War in Russia in the early twentieth century to escape religious persecution. Not all of us could attest to the whereabouts of the legal documentation or the process of immigration that our forebears had followed. A few could trace their lineage through Ellis Island, while others were certain, their descendants had evaded immigration officials altogether.

Dr. Newsom’s stated purpose for her lecture was that of empathy. For various reasons there have been and always will be displaced persons: economic migrants and refugees. All of our families, at one time, have been one! Concerning the treatment of refugees and economic migrants, God through the prophets would often call Israel to remember that they too were once immigrants and refugees in a strange land. Empathy for others, especially the displaced, begins with remembering our own biblical heritage and story.

Image Credit: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thinking Out Loud – November 2016

From Pastor Dave McMillan

But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ for he is our peace. In his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

Pastor DaveOver 27 years ago, my sister and her husband spent many months and tens of thousands of dollars to become pregnant. In their mid–30’s (after numerous disappointments and heartbreaks) they decided to adopt a child. They explored several avenues and settled on adopting a child from Guatemala, where the waiting period and expenses were considerably less. They were able parents, ready to offer a child, any child, a loving home.

After a call from their lawyer that a young boy was available, they traveled to Guatemala City to receive their six-month-old package of joy. Though years have passed, I remember their excitement and our joy at welcoming my new nephew, Benjamin, home, into our extended family.

Over the years, we’ve remained close as a family, sharing birthday parties, weddings, holidays, and vacations. Ben has become as much a part of the family as any other member. Still, I’ve become aware — through things my sister has shared with me privately and from the rare occasions when Ben has willingly been forthcoming — that his life has been much more difficult than our own He’s had to live with feelings of rejection, alienation, and discrimination because of his physical features, dark black hair, and skin color.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been less than sympathetic towards Ben, at times inwardly questioning his stories of prejudice and discrimination, wanting to believe that most people are basically good and fair in their estimation and treatment of others. It couldn’t be as bad as he’s made it out to be. Is this his justification for not accepting the hard responsibilities of adulthood? Mm…How easy it was for me to judge — a white middle-aged male living in a predominantly white world, with all the privileges this affords me.

If there was ever a time in recent history when the Church could make a difference in the course of a nation, it is now.”

A few nights ago, my sister called me on her way home from work. She’d been on the phone with Ben, who has worked several years for an organic lawn service servicing wealthier neighborhoods. He’d pulled his truck to the side of the road and was unloading his spreader when a man drove up next to him. Lowering his window, he yelled that Ben’s truck was illegally parked; then looking at him, he said, “Just like you, an illegal immigrant.”

Something sticks in your gut when words like these are said to someone you love. First, you want to go and confront this person. At least, you think it. Then, all your own prejudices take the wind out of your sails. Who have I looked at and thought the same? Whose son, father or mother, whose nephew? How could we, white America, know what it’s like to be the object of such hatred and prejudice unless we’ve been on the receiving end ourselves?

There’s a lot of hate out there — and I’m afraid to say — a lot of hate in here, too…in our own hearts. In the past several months it seems to have been unleashed upon the world, even accepted and condoned. It’s more than the result of a presidential campaign; some call it the underbelly of America.

In my mind, it comes, in part, from economic uncertainties and a continued breakdown in community: in our homes and in the civic and religious institutions that have traditionally held us together. It comes as a result of the breakdown in human relationships, especially today, along the lines of race, which have been charged with renewed, deep-seated fears and mistrust. But, ultimately, it’s a spiritual problem arising from an insecurity born of feelings of being unacceptable or unaccepted. When a person feels fully loved and accepted in the eyes of God, he cannot help but love and accept all others.

If there was ever a time in recent history when the Church could make a difference in the course of a nation, it is now. By Church, I mean individual churches and Christians, each of us first looking honestly at ourselves in light of the life of Christ who confronted the social challenges of his day while also being a peacemaker and bridge builder.

As followers of Christ, we’re called to be a healing balm, reaching across existing hatreds to offer a way to relate to one another, to break down walls of hostility that separate us. We’re called to do this through acts of self-sacrifice, service, humility, and love…a love for all people, including those who do not look like ourselves.

Thinking Out Loud – “Who Am I?”

“For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.”
James 1:23,24

Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave McMillan

From Pastor Dave McMillan

Some time ago, I watched an old documentary hosted by the late neurologist, Oliver Sacks.

He was was interviewing a middle aged man suffering from Korsakoff’s Syndrome who could remember nothing of his life since the end of World War II. The documentary made in the 1990’s, he still believed it was 1945 and behaved normally aside from his inability to remember most of his past and the events of his day-to-day life. As I watched, I remember feeling heartbroken as he struggled to find meaning in the midst of forgetting what he was doing from one moment to the next.

According to psychologist David Keirsey, who developed the popular personality assessment the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, I fall under the category of an “Idealist”. I imagine this isn’t a surprise!  According to Keirsey, as an Idealist, I am part of twelve percent of the world’s population who are forever concerned with seeking meaning and significance, obsessed with answering the question “Who am I?”.  While still possessing a fair memory, there are still some mornings when I look in the mirror, as if I have forgotten overnight, and ask “Who am I?” . . . ”What am I like?”

The question “Who am I?” may be especially concerning to Idealists, but I suspect it is a question we all ask from time to time. I also believe it was a question Jesus tried to answer for us.  He tried to answer this question for us by taking the ordinary lives of his disciples and showing us how extraordinary life can become.  He tried to answer this questions by revealing and confronting our religious pretensions appealing to the authenticity of love, justice, and mercy.  He tried to show us who we are in befriending and forgiving sinners like Zacchaeus, The Woman at the Well, and The Woman Caught in Adultery, revealing to us our better moral nature.  He revealed to us who we are in his crucifixion and death, the fearful part of ourselves that wills for power, that we would rather not admit to, but must always remember lest history tragically repeat itself again and again.

Jesus tried to show us who we are through calling us to follow him in Christian discipleship.  Pastor Eugene Peterson wrote that Christian discipleship is “a long obedience in the same direction.” Jesus knew that self-identity comes only after a life-time of fidelity to the spiritual practices of self-surrender, prayer, corporate worship, right relationships, and acts of compassion and service . . . until the faith we profess is harmonious with the faith we live, until we become more like our Master.  Only then when we look in a mirror and walk away, we won’t feel the need to run back having forgotten what we are like.

“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18