• on July 30, 2020

FACING INTO OUR LITTLE DEATHS

I feel like in recent weeks I have addressed lay leaders about FCC’s immediate future, matters you must attend to.  That might befuddle some of you. Some ask, why bother? Why not just let go and move on?  Three reasons.  After I’m gone, I can’t and won’t say a word: it’s a speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace moment. Second, I don’t want your new interim or permanent settled pastor burdened with essential things that you can take care of now. Third, I love this church, have fully invested myself in its well-being, and want the best, even if it means being direct.

But that time has passed. I’ve said all I need to say except for goodbye. Candor is necessary for a healthy goodbye. But not just candor about the pitfalls awaiting us. Also, candor about what we share emotionally and spiritually, for me to be receptive to your feelings.  Pain and grace, grief and gratitude describe this time.

A respected lay leader recently stated about my retirement, and how hard it is to process this shift, “Maybe what we’re experiencing is similar to what occurs when someone is about to pass from this life to the next. You know how they start to shut down or shut out those they feel closest to and connected with because it’s too hard to deal?” That remark reminds me of a clergy farewell written years ago.

“From the time I announced my resignation at St. Margaret’s through my final Sunday six weeks later, the comparisons of terminating with a parish and dying occurred to me often.  While the congregation went through emotions analogous to having a significant person die, my emotions were those of the person dying.

“Throughout the time I felt a mixture of emotions. I felt sadness at the prospect of separating my life from the lives of many who had been significant persons for me and at separating from a community which had been nurturing for me.  I felt a mixture of anticipation for a new adventure and also some fear of the unknown.

“Then there were more down to earth feelings that came as I ended relationships with people—trying to articulate what our relationship had been and struggling to face the fact that they would be ended or at least change in a most significant way…The comparisons with dying were many—it takes conscious effort and courage to face what needs to be done. Some matters I didn’t face but hopefully the experience did prepare me for better ‘dyings’ along the way henceforth.

This piece written by Rev. Parke Street for his Washington D. C. clergy peers describes what these days feel like. Of course, preparing to part during COVID-19 makes it even harder, or at least weirder. Maybe we just wave at each other?

My keynotes for these last few weeks are grace and gratitude. After this Sunday, I’ll pack my life into boxes for two weeks, then return for two weeks, back and forth. All I can say is the last nine years have been my most satisfyingly heartfelt years in ministry. I’m in awe of all you’ve given me, my happy ending in ministry, a wife whom I love and adore, and mostly, your open hearts and questing spirits.

Your clear trust in me and FCC, D is something I’ll always hold as dear and holy.

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