Lucy Parkman did a good job surprising me on Sunday morning, October 23, as I stood in front of a crowd of worshippers wondering where the ushers and the offering plates were. Instead of ushers, Lucy ushered me to the pulpit to speak words about the five years Jenny, Addison and I have spent among you. I said then, and I’ll say it again, these have been five extraordinary years—not easy at times, but wonderful none the less. The Edwards family is looking forward to our continued journey as part of the UBC family.
One of the great gifts that UBC has given me over the last five years is an opportunity to develop a friendship with Dick and Jane Allison. It did not take long for me to discover in Dick a great mentor, encourager, and friend. On some of the toughest days over the last few years, it brought me great comfort to share a cup of coffee and conversation with Dick. The two of us have laughed together and shed tears together. And when I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to talk to media, Dick even stepped-up to share his own stories as he cast a very beautiful image of University Baptist Church to local and national media. In so many ways, Dick is my pastor.
A couple of years ago I also had the task of serving as Moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi (CBF MS). In the time of leadership transition in which I served, I found it important to read all the minutes of the organization, going back to our formation in 1992. All through those minutes, I read the name “Jane Allison.” As I read, I realized that the sweet Jane I knew at UBC was also one of the great supporters of mission work both in our state and among the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). When the task came later that year to name our state mission offering, leaders from across the state concurred that it should be named the Jane Allison Offering for State Missions. In so many ways, Jane has inspired me to take seriously the responsibility of supporting our larger mission efforts through CBF MS and CBF.
And so, as Thanksgiving draws near, I want to express my thankfulness to God and to UBC for the gift of Dick and Jane Allison.
I received the news that they would be moving to Louisville later this year with more than a few tears. I’m thrilled that they will make their home in Kentucky among family and in close proximity to their beloved grandson. But I am sad that I won’t regularly hear Dick tapping on my door to come share a few words with me. I’ll miss knowing that on the toughest days in ministry my pastor isn’t able to meet me at JavaWerks for a cup of coffee. I’ll miss Jane reminding us at monthly MAP meetings of the importance of our support for Global Missions.
So join me on Wednesday evening, November 16 for our Church-wide Thanksgiving Dinner. As we share our traditional feast, we will also take time to give thanks for Dick and Jane’s leadership and friendship among us these last twenty-five years.