January 14 – May 31, 2019
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
In 1998, having all of five years of full-time ministry under my belt and having recently turned 30, I began my dream job. I became the Managing Director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, then based in Lake Junaluska, NC. I could not believe my luck – I was able to bring my planning and organizational skills and my passion for social justice together in service of an organization that was doing great things for the cause of peace. And they were so convinced that we were meant to work together that they moved the office to where I lived – Charlotte, NC.
At the suggestion of Executive Director Ken Sehested, I spent my first week just reading the organization’s history. Wow. I was awed by the stories of faithful, creative, courageous people whose individual work for peace rooted in justice had been strengthened as they came together. The next week I attended my first Summer Conference – held at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Wow. I was blown away again – this time by the present reality of this amazing group. I had never before been in a gathering with so many people who were actively, passionately involved in work for justice. There was so much energy, so many good ideas, so much challenge and support, and so much fun. I was hooked!
This July I’ll celebrate my 20th anniversary as part of the staff of this ever-evolving institution. What a ride it has been! We’ve gathered in groups large and small. We’ve come together in our four member nations – and around the world. We’ve had great successes and painful failures. We’ve augmented our name. We’ve taken on issues we didn’t even know about in 1998. We’ve known moments of deep joy and periods of piercing sadness. We have loved each other, pushed each other, held each other, and sometimes fought with each other. We have celebrated weddings and baptisms and calls to ministry. We have wept at funerals and unjustified firings and at the sheer violence of the world. And through it all – I have remained convinced that this really is my dream job.
And – to every thing there is a season. For several years now, I have had a growing sense that the time for my departure from the staff of this organization is nearing. Nothing is wrong – in fact, I am as excited as I have ever been about what we’re doing together and what the future holds. Our movement over the past few years -- to becoming far more deeply the anti-racist, multicultural organization we’ve always dreamed of being -- has been deeply encouraging. Our conference this past summer in Mexico was simply miraculous. There is much on the horizon that is just as energizing. Despite all that – and in some ways because of it – it is simply time for me to begin the process of stepping away. It is my strong sense that, especially for a group of our size with a relatively small staff, it is important that no one person become synonymous with the organization itself. And having now turned 50 (!), I am increasingly pulled to discover what new opportunities await me.
After a considerable time of discernment, on my own and with our Board of Directors, I’ve concluded that this isn’t a “two weeks notice” situation – or anything close to it. I shared my decision with the board just over a year ago, and I am planning to leave a little over a year from now.
I have poured my life into BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz for almost two decades now. I am immensely grateful for everything I have been able to do. I am profoundly grateful for the wonderful people with whom I have been able to do it. Know that you all have made an imprint on my soul that will go with me wherever I go next.
With every fiber of my being, I believe in this organization and the future it has. You should have already received a letter from Mayra Picos-Lee, President of our Board of Directors, laying out some details of what comes next. I hope you will join me in remaining supportive as that future unfolds.
LeDayne McLeese Polaski
BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz