By Paul Walfall
Two years ago at the 84th meeting of Alberta and Northwest Conference, I borrowed words from Stephen Covey in my election speech. I indicated to the gathering that for me the leader is the one who will climb the tallest Spruce tree to look out and to offer direction on the path to take. I said that in electing me to the office of President what I would offer is leadership. As my time in office comes to an end I wonder just how much leadership I did in fact offer. Recently a church member asked me, “So what exactly did you do as President; what can you show for your two years in office?” Initially, I was about to go through the litany of what the Conference Executive was able to do but then I had a second thought. The question did not trigger within me a defensive response; Instead it led me to a reflective place. As I look back across the past two years what exactly did I do? Really what could have been done?
This will be the last blog or letter I will share with you as Conference President. My thanks to God for allowing me to serve God’s people through this office. During my time as President I have learned much and stand in awe at the many who serve the church selflessly in so many ways. I place on record my thanks to all members of the Conference Executive (past and present), the Conference Executive Secretaries (past and present), the members of the church within the Conference and beyond and to the Conference Office staff for their support and encouragement during my tenure .
Two Greek words – “paradosis” and “tetelestai” constantly come to my mind as I reflect on my tenure in office. “Paradosis” may be simply translated as tradition. Yet it implies the joyful receipt of something that is faithfully passed on. “Tetelestai” means “it has been completed.”
When I arrived at the 2015 Conference meeting, I had no idea that I would be leaving it as Conference President. It has been my honor and privilege to serve the United Church’s ANW Conference as President. It is hard to believe that the time to faithfully pass on the mantle of office is now upon me.
During my tenure, I strived to offer leadership to the Conference on several issues to the best of my abilities. I know that in some cases I have not operated within the conventional understanding of a United Church Conference President. Yet in each case I hope that what has been seen is my deep passion for the mission and witness of the church. At Conference 2015, I indicated that my focus would be on three things. These are 1) support to Ministry Personnel, 2) encouraging the Mission of the Church and 3) enabling youth ministry of the Conference. I sincerely hope that I have done at least some of those things. I hope too that in my doing I have helped us as a Conference to see the need to be about the Mission of the Church and that we are all called to serve Christ in the world. If in any way I have proven to be a disappointment to anyone, let me humbly now ask for your forgiveness.
It will be joy to pass on the mantle or stole of responsibility to Dr. Kathy Yamashita. She is a person in whom I have grown to have tremendous respect. I have every confidence that during her tenure as President the Conference will flourish and grow. Someone asked at the Executive meeting in March what will I do when I am no longer President. The answer to that is easy. I will continue to faithfully live out my calling to be a servant of God in a Pastoral Charge. I will also continue to discern the will of God for my life and ways I can continue to serve the church. I plan as immediate past Conference President to be seen and not heard; the role of the past President is to be a support to the President in all things. This is what I will do come the rise of Conference on Sunday May 28. When that time comes, I will say in my heart, “tetelestai” — It has been completed!
It is said that the final words of John Wesley on his deathbed were, “the best of all is, God is with us.” As I take one last look from the top of this Spruce Tree these are also my words to you the members of the Alberta and Northwest Conference – “the best of all is, God is with us. We are not alone!”
It is said that Jamaicans never say goodbye. Instead we say, “walk good”. So, in parting I say to you all -Thank you and walk good!
I remain your servant for Christ’s sake,
Paul Walfall (Rev.), Conference President, May 2015 to May 2017.