Category Archives: About Pastor Jim

Not All Tears Are Evil

Thank you from Pastor Jim & Elizabeth.

Dear Westminster –

I simply don’t have the words to express the gratitude thank you in calligraphywe have for the wonderful farewell celebration for us.  It was a great blessing to have the sanctuary filled with songs of praise and also filled with many people from Westminster past, present, and future.   Thanks to all of you who wrote cards and notes. Thanks for the great food. Thank you for the fountain for my cactus garden.  Thank you for recording so many videos for us (Mary gave the ‘uncut’ version of the video today so that Elizabeth and I can watch it tonight at our home).  Thanks to the choir, worship band, Donna, Judy, and Megan, for using so many of my most cherished worship songs and melodies.  Thanks to our awesome staff of Mary, Cori, Carole, Brent, Jorge, Becky, Jennifer, Leticia & Lisa for all of the extra work involved with the celebration – you did such a great job.

Thank you to the congregation for all of the heartfelt expressions of love and affection.  Yesterday’s service and farewell program will always be one of the high points of my life.  It felt like my favorite part of my favorite movie – “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

People have asked how I’m feeling now that I finished my last Sunday at Westminster and I said it feels like sending a son or daughter off to college or out into the world – there is happiness about gaining a bedroom – sadness about losing the closeness of a beloved family member – and the ongoing concern about how your son or daughter is doing for years into the future.  In the same way — we thank God for you – for this church — and will carry you in our hearts and prayers in the years ahead.

Sorry that I was not able to get through my last sermon without getting all choked up.  What I was trying to read for you at the end of the program yesterday was from an email sent by one of my best friends, Greg Montague.  He and I were randomly assigned as roommates at UCSD our freshman year and both were on the rowing team during our years there.   I thought Greg’s words were particularly appropriate for this season in our lives.  I will insert them below for you….

I’m sure there will be many more tears from both of you, and your friends and family, this coming Sunday and the days ahead.  It makes me think of the quote from J.R.R. Tolkien at the end of The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf says to the hobbits “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth.  Go in peace!  I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”  It also makes me remember the tears that fell after our last crew races those many years ago.  It’s okay to shed some tears for it means you care.  You have put your heart and soul into many years of dedicated ministry to the congregation at Westminster.  You have, in accordance with the ability God has given you, done your best. I pray that you can find peace in that. I pray that you can trust God to continue on in his work at the church.  I pray that the tears you shed are “good” tears.  Tears that flow because you will miss your family at Westminster Pres. and the fellowship you’ve nurtured over the years.  Tears which convey the love you feel that mere words don’t fully express.

I’m proud of you, my brother.  You have done well through the challenges that life and ministry can bring.  Now comes a time of rest, reflection, renewal, and re-creation.

I appreciate these words from my friend Greg – just as I appreciate the many words and expressions of gratitude from all of you.  And I am slowly living into that final sentence from Greg above – Now comes a time of rest, reflection, renewal, and re-creation.

God Be With YouMay the Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight.” (Genesis 31:49)

In Christ, Pastor Jim and Elizabeth Rauch



Farewell Announcement

June 20, 2017

To the Members and Friends of Westminster Presbyterian Church,

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.                            – Psalm 121

Image result for farewellIt is with a sense of sadness mixed with gratitude that I write this letter.   After serving this congregation for nearly 21 years, God has called me to conclude my pastoral relationship with Westminster.

I know this news may come as a shock to many of you. When God first began nudging me to take this step I fought it and tried to push it aside – yet I also prayed deeply and sought wise counsel. When God made things as clear as possible I knew I needed to trust and obey. It took me months to come to peace with this, so I know it may not happen quickly for many of you. As God was leading me in this step, he also led me to pray more earnestly for you – and I have prayed that God would be preparing you to receive this news with faith in the Lord Jesus who is with you in your journey. I am trusting that if God is guiding me in this step of faith, he will also take care of the hearts of this dear congregation.

This announcement may raise many questions. Over the next few weeks I hope most of your key questions are answered. Let me try to speak to a few of them in this letter.

First – there is the question of what I will do. I have not been called Image result for farewellto serve another congregation at this point. My sense of God’s call is that He is saying to me: “Go from this place to the place that I will show you.” Just as Abram was called to leave a familiar place to go somewhere that God would show him (Genesis 12) – I sense God is calling me to conclude my work here and to wait for what God will show me next.   Though various arrangements still need to be made, the current plan is for me to conclude my work in August.   In the Presbyterian Church the dissolution of a pastoral relationship must be approved by vote of both the congregation and the Presbytery. A congregational meeting for this purpose will be scheduled soon.

My immediate call from God is to be more available for my family for a season – my father, my mother-in-law, and my grandchildren in particular. They can all, of course, get along without me — just as Westminster can, of course, get along without me. Yet God’s call is more mysterious than simply analyzing various needs and figuring out how you fit into them. Right now, God is calling me to retire from full-time installed pastoral work in order to be more available to support my extended family. You all know some of the unique challenges we face and we are thankful that God has opened the door for me to take this step.   Recently, when Nora returned after yet another week in the hospital, her ceiling fan was not working. I had the privilege of removing the fan and replacing it with a new one, and it gave me simple joy. I felt like God was saying to me: “this is the kind of thing I’m calling you to do for a while. Trust me with the rest of it.”

Nora & Papa J at WPC 0916Though I am retiring from serving as a full-time installed pastor, I do not sense God closing the door to using my pastoral gifts in other ways. I do not currently have another pastoral position, but I expect that in this new season I may engage in pulpit supply, chaplaincy, interim pastoral ministry, and other types of pastoral service in various places – mostly in the Presbytery of San Diego where I will continue as a member.

A second question that may be on your mind is who will be your new pastor? I have been in conversation with the leaders in the Presbytery of San Diego, and they will assist Westminster in handling this pastoral transition. The general protocol of our Presbyterian system is that within a couple of months, an interim pastor will be selected who will serve until a new installed pastor is called. The interim pastor will be selected by a small team appointed by Session for this task. This allows time for the congregation to prepare for, and select, a new installed pastor. It is usually a season of grieving the loss of one pastor and also a season of excitement for the new pastor whom God will call. There are many steps to this transition process and you will hear more about the process in the weeks ahead.

A third question that might be on your minds concerns my ongoing relationship with all of you. My goal is to do everything possible to serve the well-being of the congregation’s present and future ministry. This means I will be stepping back from Westminster in order to help the congregation prepare to bond with a new pastor. This will be hard for me, and for most of you, but it is necessary for the health of the congregation. The Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery of San Diego will work with me and with the Session of Westminster to create a written agreement that will guide our relationship in the years ahead.

One of the best things you can do to show appreciation for my ministry at Westminster is to find ways to deeply engage in the life of the church during the transition period – find a way to serve, to help, to love, and to bless this congregation as you walk together in this season.

Pastoral transitions are challenging times for congregations. Many of us, myself included, are not all that excited about change. However even though change can be hard – we also know it can be good for us. Change can cause us to grow in ways we never would have grown otherwise. It will be good for me to invest my life in different ways – and it will be good for you to have a new pastor with new ideas and new approaches to ministry. God promises in his word that even when huge changes happen in our lives, “the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46).   God is also a God of new beginnings at every stage of our lives —   “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

This congregation has blessed my family and me in countless ways over the past two decades. When we came here we had a son who was four years old, and now we have a granddaughter who is almost that age. You have been our close “forever family” and you have treated us with incredible amounts of love, kindness, and support. Being your pastor has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. We owe you all so much gratitude and we can’t begin to express how thankful we are for allowing us to serve here for so many years. Though saying farewell will be very hard for me and my family, we know God will watch over all of us and help us with this challenging and exciting step of faith.

I know a written notification like this is not ideal. In order to have a chance to speak directly about all of this, we will have a gathering between services this Sunday around 10:05 am at the conclusion of the 9:00 service.

May the Lord bless this congregation now and always. May the Lord prepare you for the blessing of a new pastor to enrich your faith and lead you in the years ahead to the future that God holds in his hands.

In Christ,    Pastor Jim Rauch