Screen ShotThis month, my first pastoral appointment Warwick Memorial United Methodist Church celebrates 150 years of mission and ministry. What follows is the letter I wrote to be included among their keepsakes for the day.

Warwick Memorial United Methodist Church
38 Hoopes Road
Newport News, VA 23602

September 18, 2018

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Grace and peace to you. I pray you are well. I am writing to you today to congratulate you as you celebrate your sesquicentennial of ministry at Warwick Memorial United Methodist Church.

I was the associate pastor of Warwick Memorial from 1997-2003, and I can say with honesty that not only were these six of the very best years of my life, they set me on the trajectory upon which my ministry still travels to this day.

Warwick Memorial was my first pastoral appointment. I was married while at Warwick, became a father for the first time, and baptized my wife Tracy and daughter Ellen there. I was ordained Elder while appointed to serve alongside you. I learned the craft of preaching in your pulpit. It was at Warwick that I learned to break the bread and administer the water, stand at the graveside, and celebrate weddings. In fact, to this day, I think of you each and every time I write “Newport News, 1997” on a marriage license.

My time at Warwick Memorial made an indelible mark upon my life, because you taught me in tangible ways how church is so much more than any building or ministry. Instead, church is the living, breathing body of Christ; a fellowship of believers who transcend time and place because by grace, their love for one another and for the world around them is so great.

“See how these Christians love one another,” Tertullian of Carthage wrote of the early church. In so many ways, Warwick set the standard for how I expect Christian community to be. Every sermon I have ever preached on love, each lesson I have ever taught on church unity, every time I have entreated a congregation I have served to live into its baptismal promise to be a “steadfast community of love and forgiveness,” I have done because of how my nascent family and I experienced love and grace in and through each of you, because in our life together, you showed me what is truly possible.

May God’s blessings rest upon each of you. Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Douglas Forrester
Lead Pastor
Reveille United Methodist Church
Richmond, Virginia