An Open Letter to the Dr. Rev. Keith Whitaker

Dearest Pastor Keith,

I tried to stop by this week to actually get to see your face. But was trying to time it so that I wouldn’t run into anyone else.
At the time of writing this, I did see that your car was the only one on campus this morning. So I got out and started knocking on the door. And then all the doors. I mean, every single one on campus just in case you were roaming about the building. This was much easier when I had keys to the church…
But alas, no one opened the door. I think you may have gone off to lunch with someone. Or, you saw that it was me and hid. Ha.
I decided to leave before somebody became suspicious of me and called the police (it wouldn’t have been the first time the police stopped me at FUMC, suspicious of me… ).

I remember the first day that I met you.
It was during the Lenten season of 2016 and we met at a Starbucks off of the 45 and Monroe. You asked if I was hungry (though it was like 3pm) because you knew a great Korean restaurant near by (to this day it remains one of our favorite Korean spots in Houston). Looking back, I hope you weren’t asking because you were hungry… because I suggested we stay at the Starbucks.
I don’t remember what we talked about.
But I do remember how I felt talking to you.
I pride myself in being able to get a read off of people; to feel what kind of vibe they give off. I didn’t know what kind of journey could be ahead of us, but I knew that you were someone I could wholly trust.

But boy was I wrong.

I kid! I’m totally kidding.
I couldn’t have been more right.
You were one of my favorite persons to work for and work with.
Throughout our time together, I discovered that you had a wicked sense of humor — albeit dry.
One of the hardest times I’ve laughed at a meeting was when I kept asking for a donkey to ride into the sanctuary for Palm Sunday and you simply looked at me and said, “We don’t need an ass because we got you” (I may be paraphrasing).

As funny as you were, your patience ran deeper.
I can’t imagine how many emails of complaints/concerns you received on my behalf. Here I was, a flaming liberal (in Pearland terms) spouting off every now and then. Even in my mid-30’s I had a hard time grasping the concept of tact, for better or worse.
Yet. You always, always had my back. Even when I went too far, you let me know in such a manner that I knew you weren’t lecturing me but genuinely looking out for me.

I do sincerely wish I was there on your staff for the end of your run.
Somewhere along the way, I had this sense of urgency that time was running out for me. It was rather nonsensical and illogical. Who was I racing? What was I racing against? What “time” was I running out of? I don’t know. But at times I felt like things were caving in so fast and so quick. I probably gave you a few headaches here and there in trying to figure out how to navigate through all this. At the time, I felt that I was trying to help the church as well. Hindsight? I don’t know. Maybe I did help. Maybe I made things worse. But I pushed and pulled and eventually found myself completely outside of the UMC.
But every single step of that journey, you were there. Making calls on my behalf; guiding me through some conversations; always letting me know I could call on you.

All this to say, I am so grateful for you and for our time together.
I cherished the times we got to just hang out and talk about other staff members. Just kidding, y’all. He never did that.
But seriously, I really cherished our one-on-one times. OH. That reminds me. We were going to Iguana Ranas for a staff luncheon and you hopped in my car to ride with me. When I turned on the car on, Notorious BIG’s “Juicy” blasted through the speakers and you simply just nodded. You didn’t ride back with me though. Haha.
OH. I also remember running into people that knew you during your youth. Turns out the Whitaker boys were very, very popular amongst the ladies.
AND. There’s that story of how you and your brothers wanted to open up a frog stand and how your parents shot down the name you boys were decided on.
OH. and all your Simpsons and Blazing Saddles references… I have so many fond memories of you.

Pastor Keith, I hope retirement suits you well.
I hope that you actually stay retired because, you know how clergy can be. They’re “retired” but they still working. A lot. Why? Aren’t y’all tired of ministry and the people that ministry forces you to be amicable with? (I kid. It’s the people that makes ministry one of the best jobs in the world…)

I’m so thankful that our paths crossed, even if it were for a brief 3 years.
I learned so much from you — especially how not to wilt in times of pressure and how to keep your sense of humor through it all.
I hope the people of FUMC understands how much you loved them — and I’m sure they do.

I’m thankful that you baptized Nathanael because you are forever intertwined in our (and his) journey.

I’m sorry for all the extra headaches that I caused and all the times I led our meetings into a whirlwind of nonsense (to be fair, McClure also didn’t help keep us on track…. ha. “Hurting or helping, John?” I’d frequently ask him… )
I’m sorry that this crazy season we are in prevented us from celebrating you and your ministry in a manner that you deserve.

But thank you.
Thank you for warmly embracing me from the get go.
Thank you for all the times you made me laugh.
Thank you for all the words of wisdom you shared with me.
Thank you for your patience and loving me through such a weird season of my life.
Thank you for everything. Sincerely.

Always with Love,
Joseph.

May you always have work for your hands to do
May your pockets hold always a coin or two
May the sun shine bright on your window pane
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain
May the hand of a friend always be near you
And may God till your heart with gladness to cheer you.

(an Irish Blessing. Because I’m Irish…)

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Dr. Rev. Keith Whitaker

  1. Not only has Keith been a blessing to our community, but you have as well, Joseph. Keep on keep in’ on guys!

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