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Congregation bids Pastor Foxgrover heartfelt farewell

This morning, January 29, 2012, the Rev. Dr. David Foxgrover was officially released from his position as minister to the Congregational Church of Batavia. More than 300 members and friends of the congregation came to the 9 a.m. worship service to honor Dr. Foxgrover on his last Sunday of the 22 years he has been leading the congregational church. This standing-room-only attendance capped a month in which all members had been reminded to attend regularly as tribute to what Foxgrover meant to them.

The bittersweet service found room for much more than the usual special music as the church’s musical talent sought to add their efforts to the celebration. The Bethlehem Brass (Frank Hammelman, Jennifer Souder, Bill Alles, Mark Hengesh and Joe Blomquist) played one of the preludes. Organist Gene Ton played the other prelude and the postlude.

The children and youth had their opportunity to pay tribute in the songs of response. Member Jean Deptolla accompanied the children of elementary school as they sang “I am a C,” a favorite from the Logos program on Wednesday nights. The junior and senior high students under the direction of Marcia Schneider sang the praise song, “How can I keep from singing,” by Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash and Matt Redman.

But the high point of the morning’s musical offerings may have been the moment right before the 34-person chancel choir began to sing the offertory. Music and Worship Director Victoria Linich had kept the choice of anthem as a surprise, and all had a chuckle as a picture of the title page of the music was briefly projected onto the front wall: “The Last Words of David.” David the king of Israel, as Foxgrover made sure to point out in the time of sharing after the offering time.

But the Randall Thompson composition, based as it is on the 2 Samuel 23:3b-4, from the King James version, holds appropriate majesty and focus on God for a service of separation: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” With the world-class acoustics of the church’s sanctuary to back them up, the choir sang this magnificent anthem with great feeling.

Batavia mayor Jeff Schielke joined the church’s current moderator (Bob Huxtable) and two former moderators (Jean Stone and Tracy Beckley) in sharing words of appreciation for and remembrance of Foxgrover's service to the church and Batavia. Beckley also presented the congregation's parting gifts, including a memory book lovingly compiled by member Amy Apperson, an avid and accomplished scrapbooker.

The Rev. Jonathan Knight, Associate Conference Minister of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, led the actual liturgy of farewell, with participation by church moderator Bob Huxtable and vice-moderator Kevin Botterman. In just a few minutes, congregation and pastor asked and received forgiveness for any mistakes, expressing thankfulness for time together, and acknowledging, on both sides, that Foxgrover has been released to minister elsewhere, and that the Congregational Church will now look to a new leader for pastoral care. As the service ended, Foxgrover had moved from pulpit to pew, denoting his new retired status.

The overflow attendance meant that the usual 10-15 minutes of greeting after the service stretched a full half-hour or more. The greeting location for today was at the entrance of Paxton Hall, where a lavish buffet luncheon and celebratory cake (decorated with the program art from the previous Sunday’s concert) awaited. To enliven the wait, the Bethlehem Brass provided a musical diversion as people waited to greet David and Marcia Foxgrover. Inside Paxton Hall, the tables were decorated with books, photos and other memorabilia signifying important aspects of David Foxgrover’s 40 years of ministry in Illinois, and especially the 22 years in Batavia.

An interim pastor, the Reverend Greg Skiba, takes up his duties on February 1. A significant part of those duties is helping the congregation choose its next permanent pastor.

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