After church today, we held a big celebration for my longtime friend and colleague, Jason Condon, who has accepted a position as the Associate Superintendent and Director of Church Planting for the East Coast Conference of our denomination. These are the remarks I made as we concluded the event, along with the photos from my presentation slides.
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My story with Jason goes back more than 17 years, when I was a 15-year old high school student in southern Maine. My dad, who was on the church committee conducting a search for a new youth pastor, came home and said to me, “Scott, I think you’re going to like the guy we hired tonight. He has a full beard and hair down to the middle of his back.” Oh, and do I ever wish I had a photograph of that haircut to show you.
Oh wait! I do.
Spectacular mullet and all, Jason became my youth pastor during two of my most formative years. It was under his ministry that I learned that everyone had a vital role to play in the life of the church community: I learned about service. It was also during his ministry that I first sensed a calling to a pastoral ministry of my own.
So when Jason let us know during my senior year that he was moving to Rochester to pursue something that I had never heard of called “church planting,” I was pretty disappointed. I guess I let myself go a little bit.
But I pulled out of that funk in time to apply to colleges. I soon narrowed it down to two colleges: a New England university where I would accept a scholarship in saxophone performance, or a small Christian college in Rochester, where I would pursue a degree in Christian ministry.
Of course my friends at the youth group gave me a hard time and said I chose Rochester because I was “following” Jason there. This was really annoying to me, because I had not chosen Roberts Wesleyan so I could go be close to Jason. But when I look back on it, I was following him, in a way. I was not following him to a city, but I was following the example he had set of listening to a calling and acting accordingly.
Toward the end of my college career, I began volunteering as a worship leader in the church that Jason had started a couple years earlier, New Vision Community Church. Around the same time, I began to entertain the notion of working at a church plant of my own, this one in Las Vegas. And so not long after my graduation from college, I “followed” Jason again—and this time it was much clearer that the following was one of vocation and faithful obedience rather than geography.
Well, you’ve heard my stories about how Las Vegas worked out. I won’t repeat them now, except to say that in the summer of 2001—almost exactly nine years ago, which I can barely believe—I moved back to Rochester with Tracey, disenchanted with church and intent on getting the heck out of pastoral ministry.
But by this time, Jason was on to new and different things, serving at a ministry that was starting to look dangerously like a church, albeit a church unlike any I had ever been a part of. And before I knew it, I was working alongside him for the third time in my life. Most of you know that this time, it has stuck for nearly a decade, as that ministry eventually ended up here at Artisan Church.
So I’ve known Jason for an awful long time. And it hasn’t just been church-related. We’ve played together…
(And here I would draw your attention away from my C3PO posture and plaid-on-plaid ensemble, and toward Jason’s neon green tank top and 21st century mullet.)
And we’ve raised our families right next door to each other.
This is me with Jaron, before Bryn was even an idea, and before Abel was even a biological possibility. Over the years, there have been hundreds of moments like this one, with one of us holding the other’s kid, or better yet, with the kids all playing together. My family and Jason’s family? We’ve really and truly lived life together for almost this entire millennium. (I mean, it’s only 2010, but still.)
Lisa was the one we called when Abel had been crying for three hours straight and we didn’t know what to do—was he broken? Jason was the one I called when I needed advice on refrigerator repair. And I was the one who Bryn came to at age 2 when she desperately, and I mean desperately needed a diaper change at 10 in the morning and her whole household was still asleep.
So you can see that when Jason and his family move to Connecticut, I will be losing a lot more than a colleague.
And yet, I believe this is absolutely the right role for Jason. It’s a job that fits him so well. One thing that we’ve definitely noticed over the years is that even as we’ve worked so closely, we have developed ministry styles and approaches that are quite distinct. And as Jason moves into a new position that fits his unique calling and personality perfectly, I adjust my role here in a way that fits me perfectly. So I guess you could say that as Jason and I part ways as pastors, I’ll keep on following his example: service and obedience to my calling. So from me and my family, and on behalf of our whole congregation, I say to all four of you: Jason, Lisa, Jaron, and Bryn, thank you, and we love you.
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(Oh, and congrats on the new job.)