Coming into a new church is never easy for a pastor. I’ve done it now a few times and I’ve learned to appreciate certain things that can make it easier. The most important thing is having someone nearby who can give you an idea of the rhythms of the congregation; someone who can keep you focused and steer you in the right direction as you meet new people and enter new situations. Well, for me Linda Donner has been that person.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “I don’t know what we’d do around here without Linda!” For 21 years Linda has been a source of stability and continuity in our church. I’m sure when she was hired as Administrative Assistant back in 1990 she had no idea what she was in for. In that time she has worked with 14, count them! 14 pastors and associate pastors. Most people would have run screaming from the place after 3 or 4. But not Linda. Throughout all those changes she remained calm and sweet, always approaching every challenge with a cheery attitude and every member or visitor with a smile.
And even though she wouldn’t admit it, I’m sure that has not always been easy!
But as we all know, Linda is retiring at the end of this year. She’s finally going to get a break from people like me: people who never quite manage to get their articles to her in time; people who ask her to do a mailing three days before it needs to go out; people who just enjoy sitting in the office with her and shooting the breeze. Linda has been patient with people like me even when things around the place were in chaos, and by doing that she has helped North continue to minister in our community effectively and joyfully even through all the transitions this congregation has endured.
Linda is a gifted presence at North. And it’s hard for us to tell her good-bye. It’s hard for me to tell her good-bye. I’ve counted on her for the last three years to keep me in line. But I’ve been around churches long enough to know there’s no avoiding changes like this. We’ve been blessed, North Church, to have Linda with us for as long as we have. And all we can say is, “Thanks be to God she’s been here because without her….” well, you know the rest.
So, Linda, thank you so much for the ministry you have shared with us. Thank you for ways you have lightened the burdens of pastors over the years. Thank you for your compassion and your warmth and your generous, peaceful smile. And as you move to this next stage in your life, I hope you’ll find your way back here from time to time and continue to think of us as home.