‘Drive-by’ Goodbye Celebration Honors Departing Pastor

Members of Cedarcreek Covenant Church took turns saying goodbye to pastor Kenton Johnson and his family.

(May 4, 2020) – It was certainly an unusual send-off when Cedarcreek Covenant Church of Maple Valley, Washington, held a “drive-by” goodbye celebration for pastor Kenton Johnson after he preached his final virtual sermon on Sunday.

After serving the congregation for 14 years, Johnson is moving next month to Indiana for a clinical pastoral education program as he pursues a call to chaplaincy.

Due to social distancing rules, however, the church couldn’t gather to say goodbye to Johnson, his wife, Gretchen, and their teenage daughter, Amelia.

“To say goodbye to them during COVID-19 has been oh so hard!” said Rebecca Worl, pastor of discipleship. “How heartbreaking to leave a ministry this way—without hugs, without deep personal connection! We wanted to honor them and show them the reality of how loved and appreciated they were.”

The church’s caring team, pastoral relations team, and others were determined to honor the family in spite of the restrictions.

So the event was set up in the church parking lot. The Johnsons stood on one side of a rope while members parked their cars on the other side to say goodbye. Most got out of their cars but maintained an appropriate distance, and many wore masks.

The event was held between 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday. Members signed up for time slots during which they could talk with the family, with a 15-minute break scheduled at the top of each hour so the family could take breaks.

“We were so blessed,” Kenton said. “They kept saying they wished they could do more, but it was so beautiful. It was wonderful.”

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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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