As many of you know, I’m in the process of packing up my office to start a new appointment beginning July 1 when I will be installed as the senior pastor at Annandale United Methodist Church nearby in Northern Virginia.
They asked me to write an article for the July Newsletter to introduce myself. I deferred to others to do my work for me.
Here it is:
Garry Bell told me I was supposed to submit one of those ‘Get to Know the New Guy’ pieces for the church newsletter.
“People really read those?” I asked.
“They do since I came on board,” said Chenda.
I attempted to force Peter Kwon to write it for me but, belying his friendly and obliging nature, he refused, leaving me to release my grip on him and come up with some other plan.
Rather than write the standard We’re thrilled to be here boilerplate (all of which is true, by the way, we are excited to be a part of this community and to follow a pastor I’ve admired since entering the ordination process as well as to join a congregation and pastors that come highly recommended to me by friends), I thought you might be curious to hear what your fellow sufferers who came before you would say about me by way of heads up.
As Lavar Burton said on Reading Rainbow, don’t take my word for it:
“I am 100% certain Jason will annoy you at some point during your time together. The reason I know this is because he takes seriously his commission to preach the gospel of unconditional grace. What’s amazing- grace- to some is offensive to just as many others. More frustrating still is when someone really believes they’ve been set free by the news that the check for their debt, including their debt to you, has already been paid by Jesus Christ. Such freedom makes people unafraid of making mistakes and thus hard to control.”
– Joshua Retterer
“I thought it was Jason Stanley we appointed to Annandale UMC?”
– Alexandria District Superintendent Jeff Mickle
“Let Annandale Church know that at some point soon- very soon- they will become convinced you need more discipline or training or practice, at which point they should send you back to us. We’re happy to have more practice.”
– Charlotte Rexroad
“Hang on to your hats. Jason Micheli is your new pastor!? In a time when Methodism is in difficulty, many of us have taken heart by watching Jason’s leadership. He is a fine theologian who knows how to communicate the riches of the Christian faith. You are in for a wonderful adventure of Christian discipleship with Jason as your pastor.”
– Bishop Will Willimon
“Annandale? Hold up, I thought we appointed Jason Micheli to the Eastern Shore?”
– Bishop Sharma Lewis
“What to say about Jason Micheli? He may not know this (awkward) but I could not stand him when he started at Aldersgate. Not for his casual dress, or his sarcastic delivery. I didn’t like him because I was a preacher’s granddaughter from Oklahoma and I was pretty certain that I had all of the answers. But Jason came along and, despite my inner conflict, made me question those answers. He challenged everything I had been taught memorized about the Bible, and doubt, and what it meant to be a Christian. For the first time in my lifetime of being a “believer” I realized that I didn’t have to suspend belief in science or check my brain at the door to follow Christ. It is because of Jason, that I am finally beginning to wrap my head around the concept of Grace.”
– Gretchen Purser
– Kendall Soulen
“Jason’s loud and funny and crazy.”
– Caroline Bouma, 7
“Imagine a less reverent David Sedaris but a more appropriate Anthony Bourdain, yet with a greater sense of urgency.”
– Ryan Bouma, her Dad
“Pick your poison- Jason as your new pastor is either like losing a bet or winning the lottery, If it makes you squirm, all the better, that’s called growth. It’s amazing God can use someone as unimpressive as Jason to bring you closer to himself.”
– Carla Bouma, her Mom
“We’re really glad that the people at Annandale will be taking up a large chunk of our dad’s time. It means more Playstation time for us.”
– Gabriel and Alexander Micheli
“You cannot possibly imagine what’s in store for you with Jason Micheli as your pastor. You will not always agree with Jason but you will always have paid enough attention and thought hard enough along with him to figure out – perhaps on Wednesday – about where you are certain he went wrong. Jason preaches of the kingdom without fear or favor, with the urgent abandon of a man who has stared death in the eye.”
– Brad Todd
“Jason is a secret Nora Ephron fan.”
– Johanna Hartelius
“One thing it’s fair to say about Jason: never dull. It’s challenging to have your understanding disrupted, but it broadens your perspective. In some way it’s like the best college class that opened up your mind. That said, Jason is a Generation X pastor, which means pop culture references are par for the course, and his broad-mindedness about scripture and your sin does not extend to certain genres of pop music (or to Joel Osteen).”
– JC Herz
“I expect that many are about to have a lot of their solid, comfortable assumptions challenged–and it’ll probably scare the whathaveyou out of some of them. But there will be those–many, I hope–who have been waiting their whole lives to hear Jason “preach Christ, and him crucified.”
– Mike Crane
“Micheli neither gives nor expects easy answers to what form of life should Christianity take in our day. This makes him dangerous in the best way, and his challenge to all of us is why should we care about Christian faith at all if it only mirrors our culture and speaks no prophetic word from God. Micheli¹s life reminds us that everyday is a resurrection of sorts, calling us to confront the life to which Christ calls us. You may disagree with him, you may fume in anger or nod your head in agreement, but one thing you won¹t be able to do is ignore the call to authentic faith that Micheli invites you to explore.”
– Dr. Jeffrey Pugh
“It takes time to truly get to know him. Be patient! Jason leads with sarcasm, but is caring and thoughtful. He’s not a hugger…so don’t take it personally! He’s an introvert who is good at fooling you into thinking he’s an extrovert, so know that all of the interaction on Sunday morning is him really putting himself out there and exhausting him in the process. Annandale UMC is so lucky to be getting Jason, Ali, Alexander and Gabriel.!”
– Karli Eddinger, Pat Vaughn’s Friend
“I was getting sober right when I first met Jason. I was taught as a child that I would get what I earned and that if I did good things for God then good things would happen and if I sinned against God then punishment would come my way. Jason taught me that this is karma not grace and, hearing this, has freed me so that God can turn the ashes of my life into something (desperately scarred) but beautiful in its way.”
– Julie Pfister
“Don’t encourage him. He already thinks he’s great and hilarious.”
– Ali Micheli
I look forward to our time ahead and to sharing life together in faith. As the above testifies, I’m not perfect but, thank God, that’s not our message to proclaim; in fact, God’s grace in spite of my imperfection (and yours) is our message to proclaim. I’m excited to join you in it.