Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dear Lagniappe friends and family, In August of 2005 I never dreamed what God might be doing in the midst of a Hurricane called Katrina. I understood theologically that God could work ‘good things’ even in the midst of a tragedy, but had never clearly come face to face with His providence or goodness like I have witnessed here. In October of 2005, with great confidence, passion and zeal, I resigned my pastorate in Memphis to follow God’s calling to Bay St. Louis. On that day there were many who scratched their heads at that decision and questioned the wisdom of the timing. I smiled and assured them that God was calling me and He would provide all that was needed for His calling. He has shown that He can be trusted. I knew that God had called me to plant this church, but beyond that I was not firmly convinced of what His calling would look like. As Lagniappe transitioned from disaster response to a ‘normal’ church and after many years of wrestling I had resolved to transition out of my role at Lagniappe and get another job in Bay St. Louis while serving alongside the man who God would call to be our primary pastor. For years I have struggled with the tension between being a small church ‘parish priest’ type pastor versus a ‘preacher/teacher’ type senior pastor. At the end of that process, I became convinced that God was calling me not ‘out of the pastorate’ into some other vocation in Bay St. Louis, but rather that God was calling me out of Bay St. Louis and into some other pastorate. I was devastated. I wrestled in prayer and tears begging God to just leave me alone, but He is persistent and I guess I’ve been a bit softened by what we’ve seen here and acquiesced to His leading. So in May of this year with that conviction and with no safety net I announced to you that I would be leaving Lagniappe. I knew there were other open pulpits in the P.C.A., some were even intriguing, but I truly didn’t know if I would ‘fit’ anywhere other than here. I made that announcement with the firm conviction that my time at Lagniappe was complete and that the congregation, Presbytery and denomination would all have to rally together and participate in the future of this church. I knew it would be hard, but it would be best. In the weeks following that announcement we have seen the level of ‘ownership’ in Lagniappe dramatically increase. As you know we have a congregational meeting this upcoming Sunday to nominate a pulpit search committee and many of you are chomping at the bit to be involved in various other ways. God is working and stirring the hearts of His people. I have been encouraged and thrilled to see Him work in so many of you, even in this short period of time. In April of this year one of those intriguing church ‘possibilities’ had inquired about my willingness to ‘talk with them’ about their open Senior Pastor position. I told them that I ‘wouldn’t even pray about it!’ I also communicated that I was firmly committed to staying in Bay St. Louis, even if I ‘wasn’t at Lagniappe’. I was then challenged to ‘pray about’ praying about it. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself, “I guess I couldn’t even consider myself a Christian if I said no to that.” I began to pray. I think God laughs at my firmly held convictions and I’m getting used to what I like to call the ‘Jonah toss’—that’s the feeling you get when you are sure you should be going one way and God throws you off the boat into the ocean like He did with Jonah. That ‘flailing in the air feeling’ is what I call the ‘Jonah toss’! In my own mind there would be ‘no other church anywhere’ that would be a fit for my personality, desire to primarily preach/teach, zeal for life, heart for the poor and love of the Gospel all rolled into one. There was one. I just didn’t know it at the time. Last evening, the session of Southwood Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama voted to call a congregational meeting for the purpose of voting on a unanimous recommendation from their search committee to call me as their Senior Pastor. I have accepted that call pending the important votes in the congregation and the other church committees and Presbyteries. I do understand that this will come as a great surprise to many of you and additionally there may be others who might experience varying degrees of frustration or elation along the spectrum of human emotion. Please know that this is not a decision to leave Lagniappe for any reason other than God’s calling. There is no ‘issue’, ‘underlying problem’ or a ‘real story’ that must be uncovered. It is God’s calling in my life and I hope you know by now that, if and when God calls me, I will go, regardless of the situation I am leaving or moving toward. When we left Memphis there were great needs in the church and God met those needs without me. When we leave Hancock County there will still be great needs in this community and at Lagniappe and God WILL meet those needs without me. Remember in the Old Testament that God spoke to his people through Baalam’s donkey (please fight the urge to draw too many parallels here!). He doesn’t need us, but rather rejoices in allowing His people to participate in what He is doing. Please know two things: my affection for Lagniappe and the people of Bay St. Louis/Waveland could never be overstated- in many ways my heart will always be ‘in the Bay’. Additionally, Lagniappe needs you to embrace her mission now more than ever! We have said hundreds of times that we ‘exist on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to participate in the restoration of creation…’ Beloved, whether you are reading this letter in Wayland County Massachusetts, Tacoma, Washington or sitting at the Mockingbird CafĂ© on Second Street you must participate. Withdrawal, complacency or bitterness are not ‘lagniappe’ options. To love her IS to participate. To appreciate this ministry IS to embrace it. In many ways it’s like being a Saints fan. There is no partial commitment allowed in the Superdome. You can’t simply give a ‘golf clap’ when Drew Brees throws to Jeremy Shockey- you’ve got to scream yourself hoarse and bear hug the person sitting next to you! Lagniappe needs that level of zeal from you now more than ever! Personally, it will be a bittersweet move for our family. School begins in Huntsville in early August. With appropriate ecclesiastical permission, we will move prior to the school start date. Jean IV will remain in Bay St. Louis for his senior year at Bay High. He will live with my mom and we’ll all be going back and forth a bit. God sold our house in 3 days for cash, no contingencies--- simply unreal. There will be other details forthcoming, but please know in summary how deeply thankful I am to our Father in Heaven for the opportunity to have served at Lagniappe and to have shared life with you. “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love and He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 -Jean F. Larroux, III