Remember that time I sang with Santa Claus and that time I married your son?

I’m a Christian. I was born into a loving, Christian family, and raised in a loving, Christian church that I consider to be my second family. Because of my family and this family, I came to find my faith in a way that is wholeheartedly mine. But there is one family that had a bigger influence than they may realize, and that would be the Duncans.

For some reason, I still distinctly remember a certain Sunday back in 2004. I was in Sunday School, and this boy walked in the room. I thought to myself “he doesn’t go here!” …His name was Ricky Duncan, and he absolutely does go here. And he did, for the following 11 years. And he, along with his 2 brothers and parents, would come to have a huge impact on my life.

A few months ago, I was away at school and I got a phone call from my dad, saying that Pastor Randy would be headed to Chesapeake come July. I remember it didn’t  seem real, so I didn’t let myself think about it. Just a few hours later, I ended up on the phone with a close friend of mine, and as I began to understand what was happening, I soon realized JUST how much this was going to affect me. I realized what a strong impact you, Pastor Randy, have had on my family and on my faith, and how I wouldn’t be the same person I am now if it wasn’t for you.

I wish I could explain to you all the impact that Pastor Randy and his family have had on Sterling UMC over the last eleven years. For some of you, you know. But for others of you, you will never fully understand. Somehow, someway, our congregation was blessed when the Virginia Conference decided to send Randy Duncan our way over a decade ago. Pastor Randy, you have touched our hearts, you have touched our lives, and you have taught the thousands of people that have set foot through those doors over the last few years that there is always a reason to show love. You showed us that God’s love doesn’t stop at the back of that room, but the second we step foot out of our building, we are on a mission to share His love with those who cross our paths. It  is because of you that I have a true, deep aspiration to spend my life doing mission work, living my life for those around me. It is because of your family that I knew I had found a place to worship, to serve, to pray, to laugh, to cry, to comfort, and to be comforted.

Robbie, you never fail to make me smile, to make me laugh, and you always go out of your way to make anyone feel welcome. Even when I was an awkward little middle schooler, I always knew I could count on you to make me feel comfortable.

Ryan. Oh, Ryan. You know, when I was thinking about what I would miss about you, the first thing I thought of was “well, at least now no one will mess up my hair.” And then, lo and behold, I roll up to church yesterday and the first thing you do is mess up my hair. You have been like the second little brother I never had, always giving me a hard time about something (like I needed you to tell me that I sounded like a middle school boy when I lost my voice back during Footloose…). You have such a big heart and you give such big hugs and you have been such a brother figure to so many around you.

Ricky, there is no one I would rather have starred side by side with in our years of musicals up on that stage. No one else could have played my son one year, my Prince Charming the next, and have come to mean so much to me. One of my favorite moments ever is when you and I were backstage before we went on for the last time together in 2012. You grabbed my arm, pulled me back, looked at me, and said “this is it, Emily. We started this together, let’s finish it together. This is our last time.” And so we did. We walked out there and we stood in that spotlight together, a feeling that I will always remember and that I will never be able to recreate. You have such a lighthearted spirit that will be missed by many here.

Robin, you have taught me so much about not only music itself, but the beauty and the power behind something as simple as a single note. Thank you for years of you on one side of the piano and I on the other, working tirelessly  until I perfected(ish) a song. You taught me to own every song that I sing, may it be a literal sheet of music, or just being confident in my everyday life. Thank you for all that you’ve done by creating a home for me, in that sanctuary, on that stage, in music, and in the comfort of our church.

Pastor Randy, there is so much I could say, but the truth is, I’ll never be able to fully say it. None of us will. We all try to find words to express our love and gratitude to you, but words will never be enough. If there is one thing you’ve taught me (which there are actually thousands, but not the point right now), it is you’ve taught me to always follow God’s call. Sometimes, His call can take you through unmarked roads and unswam waters, but He knows best and His plans are created solely for us. I have no choice but to believe and follow God’s call, as it is because of His call that you came to us here at Sterling UMC.

So, thank you, Pastor Randy. Thank you for opening your heart to us here, and always be willing to go out of your way for us. Sitting in the hospital waiting for my dad to get out of heart surgery is so much easier when you are sitting in the chair next to me. Thank you for loving so many and so much, thank you for caring so often and so willingly, and thank you for being you, because you is exactly who we wanted and needed by our side over the last 11 years. It is because of you and your family that I have faith that Sterling UMC will continue to thrive as the years go by. I wish you and your beautiful family the best of luck on your next journey, and I hope that you always know and always remember that you have a home with us here. New Creation has no idea what a blessing they are about to receive.

P.S. I do know where you’re moving to, so don’t be surprised if I show up on your doorstep.

“God’s grace is sufficient in meeting every need.”
-Randy Duncan, Sterling UMC Pastor 2004-2015

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