Milton United Methodist Church bids farewell to the Rev. Steve Scott, who served as their pastor for seven years. With him in the photo taken on Saturday is his wife, the Rev. Ann Scott, who is pastor of Evansville UMC.

I began my ministry in Milton with a plunger in hand and ended by preaching to an empty sanctuary. Not what I dreamed of in seminary.

After seven wonderful years as pastor of the Milton United Methodist Church, I’m heading down the road. We go where we are called to serve.

Leaving Milton isn’t easy. Not even in the best of times, but especially during a pandemic. All of us feel the angst of disconnection, the disruption of routine, the anxiety of the unfamiliar.

If we could know when we’d get back to normal, we’d find it easier to persevere. Science implores us to be patient. Patience is a virtue for which I pray often.

But I’m trying to let go of “getting back to normal.” Milton UMC’s group studying a return to the building is called the “back to the future team.” We treasure our past, and we again will enjoy those things that matter most. But we can’t just go back to how things were.

That future can feel daunting, but promising. A Biblical proverb says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

I envision a community that values cooperation rather than consumerism. That teaches children virtue as well as history. That ensures they’re fed and safe. That reclaims civility in public conversation.

Our nation was founded on independence, but we also must acknowledge our interdependence. It’s astonishing how rapidly a virus traveled from central China to affect the entire world. Our human welfare is mutual.

Making the world better often isn’t glamorous work. My first Sunday duty in Milton was attending to a clogged toilet in the women’s room. My final message, because of the pandemic, was spoken to a room full of empty chairs and a video camera.

But I treasure much about these past seven years. I’ve served a congregation that cares for people outside the building as much as within. I’ve cherished meals and conversations in cafes and coffee shops. I’m grateful for the schools’ cooperation with us in serving our shared interest in children and families. I appreciate local businesses who strive to make a difference, not just a profit.

We have much to pray for in this moment: public health, anti-racism, people’s livelihoods. But I pray the disruption of this year will lead us to new, life-giving ways to thrive, not just survive. That we and the earth might heal.

That’s why we pray: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Milton UMC will welcome the Rev. Jonathan Kim as pastor on July 1. The church is at www.MiltonUMC.org. The Rev. Steve Scott will join the pastoral staff of Cargill UMC in Janesville.

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