A Very Moving Experience      


Bill Tune


There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the moving of United Methodist pastors.  It’s nothing new for me. I was raised in Methodist parsonages
all over the Texas Panhandle, and thanks to my wife’s second career as a United Methodist pastor, I’ve spent the past 14 years doing the parsonage shuffle again. The itinerancy of pastors has long been a hallmark of the United Methodist church.  The reason for this practice is the theory that since different ministers have different gifts, it is hoped that over time each church will receive what it needs as pastors come and go.  Of course there are exceptions, especially in the largest churches, but the majority of United Methodist preachers itinerate, meaning “to travel from place to place to perform one’s professional duty.” In smaller churches the average stay is 3 to 5 years. One of the biggest plusses of this system is that (in theory) every pastor has a church and every church has a pastor.

The decision of who goes where is made by a group of church leaders called “the cabinet.” They begin meeting in the early spring and by May the vast majority of appointments have been made with all the appropriate notifications and preparations.  Preachers frequently know about the move months in advance, even if they don’t know exactly where they’re going, but sometimes they get very little notice. 

When the pastor of a small church has served for four years, it is a given that the chances for a move increase. This past spring we waited for “the call” from the cabinet, but it never came, so we settled in for year number five.  The appointments all became official at the church’s Annual Conference held on Memorial Day weekend in Houston. The next Sunday Beverly gave her congregation the good news; on Monday she started a new book study group, on Tuesday she got “the call”! Due to an unusual circumstance in a church far, far away, there was an opening for a pastor and Bev’s name was submitted.  Five weeks later our earthly possessions were loaded onto a moving van, and we headed for our new home over 250 miles up Hwy. 69. 

The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist church covers a large portion of East Texas.  It borders on the coast and Louisiana, goes west just past Brenham and extends north beyond Longview and Tyler.  We literally (and, yes, I’m using this word correctly here) moved from the SE corner of the SE District to the NW corner of the NW District. Another 20 miles north or west and one is in another conference.  Ironically, we are over 4 hours from Houston, home base for the Texas Conference, but we’re just a little over an hour from Dallas, home base for the North Texas Conference.  But enough geography…

Moving! Ugh!  Here’s my list of the five things I like about moving:






Once the move is made, there are ups and downs. Meeting new people and exploring a new part of the state is an adventure, but making your furniture fit a new house and the dozens of address changes are a pain.

Moving is very stressful.  Fortunately, we had some help packing thanks to friends and family, but I was still packing when the movers showed up. Working towards the deadline of moving day plus remembering the things that must be handled in advance (forward the mail, cancel the papers, notify doctors, etc.) causes anxiety. I was also painfully reminded by the aches and pains of my suddenly increased physical labor that this is the oldest I’ve ever been!

When I was a kid most of the furniture belonged to the church, so when it came time to move, our biggest concerns were the piano, the TV, and the washer/dryer.  A caravan of members’ pickups was usually our mode of moving.  That was then. Today, the preacher owns all the furniture, but the conference pays professional movers to move it.  That’s great, except that professional movers will not take any responsibility for liquids, so I still have to rent a U-Haul trailer to move all fuel, cleaning liquids, extra drinks, etc. plus all our potted plants (inside and outside). 

Pulling that trailer across the state was its own experience. I took care to allow more time for braking, and I carefully avoided any sudden changes in steering due to the unpredictable shimmy that followed. The first 240 miles were uneventful.  I settled into my slower-than-normal-traffic pace and got almost comfortable with my ability to “control” my rig.  Then it happened – 10 miles from my new home.  As I entered a small town, another highway merged with Hwy. 69 from the left.  I saw the large SNAP-ON truck head for my lane, but due to a vehicle in the left turn lane, he did not see me. When I realized that we would soon be attempting to occupy the same physical space, I firmly applied my brake, sat on my horn and headed for the ditch. Fortunately, I was able to slow down enough to let him on and ease back onto the road before hitting the ditch. No harm done, at least nothing a load of laundry couldn’t fix.

Whenever I leave a place, I always like to think I leave a part of me there.  This time it took the form of our treadmill.

One year ago we decided to give up our memberships at the YMCA in lieu of our own treadmill.  The convenience of having the treadmill in our bedroom was much more appealing than trying to find time to go to the Y – plus one can never have too many places to hang clothes.  After a quasi-extensive search we found a quality NordicTrack that we liked at Sears.  It was delivered and assembled in our bedroom a couple of days later. We used it with great irregularity. When the man from the moving company came to do our pre-move inspection, we discovered that the treadmill was larger than the door. He recommended that I partially disassemble it prior to moving day to facilitate its removal. The night before M-Day I studied the manual and determined/hoped that removing six bolts at the base should do it.  Using the Allen wrench that was provided, I proceeded to laboriously remove the six bolts.  I started by loosening them. Bolt #4 stripped out, and I was stumped.  I prayed for a miracle and went to bed. [Note: God always answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is “no”.]

When the movers arrived the next morning, I gave them the 4-1-1 on the treadmill, but the head guy seemed confident that he could get it out.  A few hours later he sheepishly asked me to come take a look.  He was attempting to take the top part off, attached by four smaller bolts.  Bolt #3 stripped out and he could do nothing more.  After that, every angle was attempted but nothing worked. At this point I realized that we would be heading north without the treadmill, but now what?  I called NordicTrack and they assured me they could send a team out to disassemble the treadmill in a few days.  I thought this might work since the house would be vacant for a week. However, I balked at the cost - $185! Not sure what to do, but feeling out of options, I agreed.  Later, I realized that even if they got it out, I would have to rent another U-Haul and make the long trip to the coast to retrieve it, costing over $100.  It did not make sense to spend $300 to move a treadmill to a house where we didn’t even have room for it, so we chose to cut our losses and leave it there.  I canceled the request for the disassembly crew, and the new occupants of the house “graciously” agreed to keep it.

Setting up a new house is an interesting challenge. Furniture bought for one house does not always fit in the next house. There are only a couple of items that have thus far mysteriously failed to appear, and I am “this close” to having room in the garage for BOTH CARS!  The last house had limited storage, which necessitated the use of half the garage. This place has tons of storage, but limited closet space, of which the other house had abundance. There always seems to be a trade off.

One of my more interesting challenges was putting in a mailbox. The previous occupant rented a PO Box, but I wanted home delivery.  After getting permission and proper specs from the local post office, I headed to True Value Hardware where the kind man gave me some tips on the installation.  I dug the hole, mixed in the cement around the post, and attached the mailbox. No one seems as impressed with my accomplishment as they probably should, but I’m proud nonetheless!

The yard here is very large. The lawn mower I inherited is nice and fairly new.  I tried to ride it around the yard, but it got extremely awkward since it has no seat. I guess self-propulsion is some consolation.

Speaking of the yard, I was exploring the back yard on the first day and met my first NEIGHbor across the back fence.  He has four legs and a long face, but was friendly! He came up to me and let me pet him but seemed disappointed when I had no treat for him.

Moving is a huge ordeal, but the worst is behind us. We now look forward to making this house our home as we get to know the friendly folks in our new community, who have already shared many of their delicious home-grown tomatoes with us!

I guess there is a fourth certainty in life – we find good people wherever we go!


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