Sheila’s and my move from the Florida Panhandle to Salem, New Jersey would be considered by many a “big” move – a big change in weather and life-style to mention a few. Some of our friends in Florida asked what had possessed us to move to “cold” country where it snows? (Keep in mind, New Jersey had just experience a series of Nor’easters delaying Spring.) So, on my last Sunday with my Florida congregation, I intentionally had us sing Here I Am, Lord.

This hymn is about calling, and it is hard for a pastor to express the depth of one’s sense of a new calling to the congregation in which s/he has served and is now leaving, just as I recognize that each of God’s people have a particular calling in the Spirit that can also be difficult to express at times and in various contexts. So, I turned to this favorite hymn of mine for aid. I pointed to a verse for my concerned friends: “I, the Lord of snow and rain. I have borne my peoples’ pain. I have wept for love of them…I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send?” I then declared that the Lord loves the people of Salem, New Jersey, too, and despite the weather, Sheila and I heard the call and said we will go if the Lord will lead us. Besides, with so many people coming to Florida from New Jersey, there will be a lot of room for us up there! LOL. (By the way, when I tell folks in Salem I just moved here from Florida, they ask the same question: what possessed you to do that? My response: God’s love, I suppose.)

As I drove into Salem City, preceding my wife to get oriented and prepare for her arrival, I had a palpable feeling of – home. Now, as I write this, Sheila and I are in the process of getting settled into our house and looking forward to making Salem our home. We are grateful to God and to the people of FPC for so much prayer and support and – no pun intended – warmth! My God fill our days with love, learning and laughter!

In the grace and peace of Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Gary Cecil, pastor – but you can call me Gary or Pastor Gary as you prefer.