I wrote this post for our Devonport Stake church blog about the changes in leadership last weekend. The blogpost can be seen here Devonport, Australia Stake Blog
I suppose when you farewell your Bishop of the last 6 years that you would expect it to evoke some emotion in you but I wasn’t expecting too much, hey, I didn’t even take a tissue.
We were anticipating this historic occasion. There had been talk about ward boundary changes in Launceston for 12 months or more. We knew it had been submitted to the Area Presidency and that it was just a matter of time but with the change in Stake Presidency I think we had all put it on the backburner and forgotten about it for now.
So when we got a phone call on Saturday afternoon to say come to a combined ward Sacrament meeting on Sunday morning, we were excited and confident of the outcome. Even then I still didn’t contemplate how I might feel saying goodbye to my Bishop.
Corey Bailey was my best friend’s husband. He was only 4 months older than me. He was there sometimes when I visited with Kylie and had his own peculiar idiosyncrasies and was just my ‘friend’s husband’. When he was called as Bishop it took me nearly 3 months to begin calling him Bishop. It felt weird and I wondered if I would ever be able to view him as ‘My Bishop’.
Somewhere along the line that changed, I didn’t even really notice it. Perhaps it was when I was called to serve on the Ward Council and my respect for him grew out of working as a team and realising his dedication and devotion to the Lord. Perhaps it was watching him struggle with the load of being Bishop and the pain he felt as he loved and served his ward. It was definitely there the last 4 years while I was in leadership and observed his tireless commitment to the Lord and his flock. I’ve heard it said that a Bishop is a shepherd and the ward members are his sheep and tend his flock with constant love, he most certainly did.
Sunday we arrived at church with anticipation bubbling in our nerves and I sat back in my seat eager to see the outcome with 230 other members. I looked up and noticed the red swollen eyes of my Bishop as he sat on the stand and watched him struggle to compose himself before the meeting even started and as I felt the emotion surge in me, I realised then that this historic occasion would have more meaning to me that I first thought. I had grown to love my Bishop and I felt the pain for him as I realised how hard it must be to just walk away from your flock and the ones you have been supporting and praying so hard for all these years. All those people who have kept you awake at night and shed tears of grief and pain but also joy with. Can a father just walk away from his children? Today this father was handing his ward family over to another and hoping and trusting in the Lord that they make the transition unscathed.
Finally it was time for President Walters to conduct the business. He announced the establishment of the Esk & Tamar Wards to replace the Launceston West and East Wards. We were shown a map on the projector screen so we could see our new boundaries. I was in Tamar Ward, cool I thought, I even love the new names.
Many leaders from both wards were released from their callings and Bishop Horsman was announced as Bishop of Esk Ward with his counsellor Carlos Furlan and the other to come. Then Tamar Ward were given their new Bishop, Bishop Joe Rogers and his counsellors, Michael Reeve and Jason Barnes.
The joy I felt as I heard those words was immense. If anyone could take over the steering of this ship and supersede the captain, it would be Joe. Joe who had been the Shepherd’s apprentice for the previous 6 years, who also had his own peculiar idiosyncrasies which would enable him to put his own personal stamp on the work as he was directed by the Lord. I already loved Joe, this I thought, would be an easy transition for me.
After we heard testimonies and talks from our new leadership, our Stake Relief Society President and our Stake President the meeting closed. I went looking for my old Bishop and I stood in line behind my fellow ward members, as it came my turn, he hugged me and thanked me for my support and I knew words wouldn’t suffice as I told him, it had been my pleasure.
I turned around and there was my new Bishop and as I gave him a big cheery grin in anticipation of more of the same, I realised I had learnt a valuable lesson over these past few years: when you love to serve the Lord, you learn to love the Lord’s servants. And for the first time ever I am older than my Bishop, now that will take some getting used to!