15 November, 2020
To my dear, beloved congregation, St. Barnabas:
Grace and peace to you in abundance from our loving, lifegiving and liberating God.
It is with a bittersweet news that I write to you. It has now been ten years since Katie and I first walked through the doors of our sanctuary to find our new home. We will never forget the way that we were welcomed, the love that embraced us, and the smiles that beckoned us to return the following week. Over the past decade we have lived a lot of life together, everything from saying goodbye to the Reverends Anthony Miller, Jamesetta Hammons and John Goldingay, to welcoming a new group of members from Fuller Seminary. Along the way Katie and I welcomed four children into this world and I was ordained as a priest. We have said goodbye to beloved longtime members and dedicated a rose garden to the women who have meant so much to us.
I could not have imagined ten years ago that one day I would be called to serve as your priest. Yet the call came, and it has been a distinct honor and privilege to serve in that role over the preceding three and a half years. At the time Katie and I had two children and the church sacrificed to pay me half-time. In March of 2020 we welcomed Alice, our fourth, and the church has sacrificed to pay me a two-thirds salary. Meanwhile, I have been diligently working to both sustain and seek growth for our parish while also looking for other ministry opportunities that would make it possible for me to remain at St. Barnabas and support my family. For reasons that escape me, opportunities that seemed to emerge soon slipped away, yet I continued to turn over ever stone in hopes of discovering a solution.
It was during this pursuit that I began looking into military chaplaincy in the reserves. In my training I have known numerous military chaplains and have felt both a sense of kinship with them and a high level of interest in this type of ministry. What I did not expect to happen as I opened this door was the invitation to consider active-duty military chaplaincy as what God might be calling me to. As I shared with the vestry, this has led to a long wrestling match in prayer. In late October of this year the U.S. Air Force notified me that I have been selected to serve as an active-duty chaplain and Katie and I have decided to accept the offer. At this stage we do not know where we will be stationed though we hope to find out soon. It is a three-year commitment after which I would hopefully be offered an opportunity to remain, switch to the reserves, or choose to conclude my service.
The news is bitter because it means saying goodbye to Saint Barnabas. I will miss each of you profoundly and remain grateful for the time and ministry that we have together. The news is sweet because just as I have come to trust that this is what God is calling my family to, and we will be blessed in our obedience, I also trust that God has something wonderful in store for St. Barnabas. The news is also sweet because I do believe that God has been preparing me for military chaplaincy and I do look forward to serving the women and men in the U.S. Air Force.
So, to you, St. Barnabas, thank you for welcoming me into your fold for these past ten years. You have shown me the art of welcome, love and faith. Your hospitality has been transforming and your prayers have moved mountains. As our sister Jeanelle Austin shared before her departure, “St. Barnabas, you are a sending church.” Now I trust that you will send out the Bradshaws with as much strength, grace and understanding as you have so many other beloved disciples before us. I do ask you to view this transition with that mentality, for St. Barnabas is sending me out into the mission field, to care for and be an example of Christ’s love to members of our military.
On behalf of my entire family, we love you and will sorely miss you. I will remain as your priest through Christmas, leaving for Officer Training School in early January. In the interim, I will work with the vestry to set up the church for the transition. Come 2021 please know that you will continue to be held dear in my mind, heart and prayers and we will remain in touch. We are family.
Yours in Christ,