Dear Friends:

Thank you. 

Thank you for being a congregation that is committed to being an integral part of the work of the Kingdom of God in and beyond the DeRidder Community.

Thank you for being a congregation that has helped me and Erin transition to parenthood and how you have helped our children experience love and grace.

Thank you for being a congregation that provides leadership that is committed to embracing the future, building upon - but not living in - the past.

Thank you for being a congregation that welcomes new participants in our community of faith and helping them find surrogate families in you.

Most of all, thank you for being a congregation to which writing a letter such as this is not something I really want to do, but allows me to hold in faithful tension words concerning seasons of life as found in Ecclesiastes 3. Seasons are joyful, in that there is always something new on the horizon; seasons are bittersweet, in that we know that even in the midst of times of joy, all things of this earth are temporary.

Last week, I received a call from our District Superintendent, Dr. Tom Dolph, who was calling on behalf of Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, to discuss the possibility of a new season of pastoral ministry for me that would draw to a close my time as your pastor. I want to be clear in that I did not seek a change this year, and neither did your Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, who handles evaluating me and the ministries of our congregation on an annual basis. In fact, my first reaction was to say no, for I love being part of this church and this community. That being said, when I took the vows of ordination in June of 2005, I said yes to entering the itinerancy, which means that when the bishop calls, I trust they and their advisors have, by much prayer and discernment, been led to use whatever gifts, graces, and abilities I might have in a different ministry setting.

To this end, I am being appointed to serve as the pastor at First United Methodist Church in West Monroe, LA, effective July 1, 2019.

In the meantime, you and I will continue our shared ministry. We will journey through Holy Week from Palm Sunday to the Upper Room to the Cross of Calvary to the empty tomb of Easter Sunday. We will gather on Pentecost Sunday to confirm our newest batch of young people who will declare their faith in Christ. We will celebrate a yet-to-be announced wedding in a most unique way that will be a joy to us all. We will baptize children into the faith, as their parents take baptismal vows on their behalf. We will gather weekly as God’s people to hear the word read and proclaimed. We will gather at our Lord’s table to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion with the church universal and eternal.

As for what will come next, please be in prayer for our Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, led by Dr. Catherine White, and me as we welcome Rev. Laraine Waughtal as your new pastor. In the next few days, you will be hearing more from Dr. White about Laraine, who is currently serving as Director of Missional Outreach and Engagement for the Louisiana Annual Conference. Laraine's is a sweet and generous spirit I know God will use to richly bless you as I know you will richly bless her.

At this time, my last Sunday in the pulpit here is scheduled for June 16, 2019. Erin and I hope you will join us and our children for this holy and sacred time, as we celebrate and give thanks to God for our time together.

FUMC - DeRidder will always have a special place in our hearts, as will the community of DeRidder, for you have made us family, and done such a good job that it is hard to leave you, even as we know God’s work is not about us.

Let me end as I began. Thank You.

Grace and Peace,
Rev. Lamar C. Oliver, Pastor