After 17 years of serving as the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, on Sunday June 2, 2019, Pastor Roger retired from his called ministry at NYAPC.
The day began with worship at 10 am including the Sacrament of Communion and the opportunity for anyone in the congregation to come forward to re-affirm their baptism with Pastor Roger. Kathryn Sparks offered a beautiful dance interpretation to Psalm 90. Roger preached on Romans 12:1-13 reflecting on how as the church we are charged to be “in the world, with the world, through the world, against and for the world.”
The Rev. Lyman Smith from the National Capital Presbytery (Committee on Ministry) shared with the congregation of the Covenant of Closure explaining to the congregation and Pastor Roger that while friendships will surely remain between Pastor Roger and the congregation, the pastoral relationship is now dissolved. The congregation should wish Roger well into retirement and not come to him for pastoral care or other needs.
The Adult chancel choir commissioned two special pieces for Pastor Gench. The first piece, “Benediction Response,” composed by Luke Ratcliffe, was shared in worship based on Roger’s famous benediction “Lift up the Brokenhearted, Stand with the Oppressed, and Let all of it be in Love, Alleluia Amen.” The second piece, “Hello, People” (to the tune of Hello Dolly) was part of the reception, a more humorous piece featuring some of our favorite “Roger-isms” including “Cruciformity” and “Palpable.”
The reception was wonderfully planned by the Diaconal Ministers and the Nurture Committee, led by Karen Dunlap. The program for the reception was planned by Miriam Dewhurst, Paul Dornan, Stan Engebretson, Paul Gebhard, Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe, Meg Neill, Mike Smith, James Spearman, and Rev. Alice Rose Tewell. Rev. Spuhler McCabe provided the “MC” for the program.
Speakers including representatives from BUILD and Brown Memorial in Baltimore as well as members and staff from NYAPC including Mike Smith, Sarah McGinnis, Helen Anthony, and Raymond Newman (in addition to those not named above) gave thanks for the ministry of both Roger and Frances Gench at NYAPC.
Those who were baptized by Roger (including many children and a few adults) were invited up front to help Roger reaffirm his baptism. The History Committee, represented by Len Shabman, presented Roger with his portrait to be hung amongst the pastors pictures in the JQA room in the church. Kathryn Sparks, our Director of Liturgical Dance and Minister of Music at Wesley Seminary, concluded the program with a community-engaged dance into the world.
Roger, we give you thanks, for your ministry at NYAPC. We pray at in the years ahead, you will have the space to reflect deeply, act boldly, and pray fully, doing it all in love. Thank you!
with blessings, Alice Tewell
*Photos by photographer Stephen Reasonover