Pastor Mary Loring

Fear to Awe

Hello, beloved people of God. This is Pastor Mary Loring, your new lead pastor, trying to offer you some kind of glimpse into who I am. There’s so much to tell you about myself and my faith story, but for this introductory article, I’d like to tell you how I came to be appointed as your pastor.

It really all began a little more than nine months ago. You see, my husband, Mark Loring, is an incredible musician and has followed his vocational calling as a director of music and the arts at various churches. In August 2016, he saw a position opening at Chelsea First United Methodist Church. We discussed it and prayed about it and he applied, was interviewed/auditioned, and was hired all within a two-week period. I cannot tell you how I felt God moving in, through, around, above and below this new position for Mark. Once the contract was signed, we began the process of selling our home in Grand Rapids and finding a home in Chelsea. Our home in Grand Rapids sold in less than two days to a cash buyer. However, the finding and purchasing of a home in Chelsea took until October 31! (Yes, we moved in on Halloween, but that’s a whole other story … if you ask me later, I’ll be happy to tell you).

While my son Eric stayed with me in Grand Rapids, delaying his first semester of community college to “help Mom and Dad out with the move,” Mark and Sarah (our 15- year-old-freshman-in-high-school daughter) moved into three different homes over the seven-week period, relying upon the gracious hospitality of families in the Chelsea community. Least to say, it was a stress-filled and yet at the same time, bonding time for our family. Once we were finally in our home, I began to commute to Grand Rapids to continue my position as the Pastoral Care Coordinator at Clark Retirement Community. Even before all the stress and move, Mark and I had known that I would need to ask for a new appointment closer to home.

That is when a friendship with the Albion district superintendent (DS) came into play. After informing the Grand Rapids DS that I was requesting a move, I began making phone calls to both Rev. Tamara Williams, the Albion DS, and to Rev. Mark Spaw, the Ann Arbor DS. (Side note: Tamara and I had met up at Lake Louise while leading a retreat, when I first felt this call to further ministry as an elder in the United Methodist Church. At the time, I was my husband’s associate of music and the arts at First United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids and we had been asked to lead the Taize worship for the retreat while Tamara taught on John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules.” I remember pouring my heart out to Tamara on the upper deck of the lodge as we sat side by side in rocking chairs. From that time at Lake Louise on, Tamara was a long-distance mentor for me and at each Annual Conference we would check in with each other. Over the years, Tamara has heard my heart for ministry and for the people of God.) When I called her and told her I was available to pastor a church in her district she immediately said, “Mary, I think God has something very special in mind for you.”

She made that statement in September, yet it wasn’t until just before Easter that she asked me about this unique appointment. I must tell you, when Tamara described this two-church appointment, my first reaction was fear. How could I possibly manage my time? How could I offer each church what they needed? How can I be the lead pastor at one church and the associate at another? How could I be all that I needed to be at both churches and still be the wife and mother my family needed? These and so many other questions swirled in my mind and sent me in a panic, but what came out of my mouth to Tamara was, “If this is where you and the Bishop think I need to go, then, ‘Here I am Lord, send me.’” Since the joint Staff Parish Relations Committee session where I was introduced to the beautiful people of Calvary and you officially accepted me as your pastor, little by little God began to chip away at my fear.

Yes, over the past months, God has transformed all my fears into a state of awe and wonder. And really, every time we see the word, “fear” in the Bible perhaps we can translate it to “awe.” Think about it: The angel to Mary and Joseph — “Do not fear;” the shepherds in the fields — “Do not fear;” Mary Loring being appointed to a unique and intriguing two-church appointment — “Do not fear.” When we can allow our faith to be strengthened in the unknown and uncharted territory while we just rest and are confident in God’s love for us, it is then we can recognize the awe and wonder of God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

Do I know exactly how all this will work out in the day-to-day life of the church? No. But what I do know is that God has called me to such a time as this, and I am willing and God will make me able to answer the call. What took nine months in the making will surely give birth to a new creation that will glorify God. Amen? Amen!