Wandering Mind – Wandered Off
My dearest community in Christ, I want to express to you some things that are on my heart for you as you journey these next steps. First, there may be many ideas as to why I am leaving. The only truth that matters is that I came to this congregation called by the Holy Spirit. I felt the presence and guiding of the Spirit from the moment I stepped in the building, and knew that the early feelings I had with the PNC were correct. I did not have those feelings with any of the other PNC’s that I interviewed with or on any other church visits. I knew this was were I belonged in Christ. Over the past year I have felt a pulling of the Spirit again. The growth in the congregation has been amazing as I look back to five years ago. No, it has not been in numbers, per se, but when I came I said that we needed to grow in the Spirit first before we could grow in numbers. The leadership and congregational buy in to a missional direction has changed wonderfully. The reason that I am leaving is that what I was called to do in the Spirit has been done. I have helped you form a strong foundation to build on for many, many more years to come. The field has been prepared and seeded, and a little tender care will yield a great crop.
Second, I will continue to hold you all in prayer as a congregation to continue to work together towards the common goals. I do not expect or even desire that you do things the way I have or think I would want. I desire that you do you. You be the church. You live in Christ. You need to do that the best way for you, not what you think I would want. The unity and momentum of the church right now is poised to continue strong. It is upon each of you to work together with one another to maintain focus and growth. What many may not realize is that over the last year and more I have stepped back from driving the change and leadership to guiding and supporting as the elders have driven us forward. The continuation of working in committees and sharing the work load among many is what will maintain momentum. It is continuing to work as a whole church and not just a few individuals doing everything for everyone else. You might be surprised at what you can do to be a larger of the church.
Third, I want you to not be anxious. I know that my announcement was a shock to many. As the memory of your last transition is still somewhat fresh, I want you to move beyond that episode and step into the now, and into the future. Two things of being anxious will be destructive to you; one is worry about what might happen, and the other is worry that what happened before is going to happen again. God is in this place, and the breath of the Spirit is alive in you. Trust in Christ and his Kingdom. Trust in the vision of the Spirit. Live into the who you are now, and the who you can come to be. Anxiety and anxiousness about what might be will only serve to derail the good that you are doing right now. As much as the future can be uncertain, it is our trust in God that gives us peace to journey into it. Allow the process to happen and know that there are many people who support you and want to see this congregation thrive. The presbytery is for you, and wants to make sure that there is a good transition, as well as another great match between church and pastor. Do not try to get to ahead of the process, it will only cause anxiety. A little fear is healthy, but too much causes stress, unhealthy tension, and anger. Work together, and do so in love for one another and this congregation.
Go out into the world in peace, have courage, hold onto that which is good, return no person evil for evil, strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the suffering, and honor everyone. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be upon us all now and forever more.
Pastoral Separation Ethics
The role of Pastoral Separation Ethics is to allow for a healthy transition of pastoral care and leadership in the congregation. This congregation was founded in 1823. I have only been alive since 1978. This congregation existed well before me, and I believe is poised to continue on long after me. In one sense, I am but a brief blip on the timeline of this church.
Pastoring is a difficult call. It is often lonely. It is often demanding. It requires knowledge (and some expertise) in a variety of disciplines. Ultimately, what makes pastoring the most difficult is relationships. To be a pastor to someone requires a close relationship, but it still is different from other close relationships that we build. The hardest part of this is that the relationship is going to end, one way or another.
I have walked with you all in varying ways. Some I have walked through health concerns, some through family deaths, some through births, some through spiritual growth, baptisms, ordinations, funerals, celebrations, mourning, and so much more. Some of you I have walked many of these journeys with. Through these, we have formed bonds. But it is hard to do these as friend and pastor. Somewhere the line must be drawn in pastoral care as in many other caregiver relationships.
So it is hard to say goodbye as pastor as there are still bonds of friendship that remain. It is also hard because you have built relationships with my family. In fact, I remember that when Asher was born there were many comments of “You’re not having a baby, we’re having a baby”. You have watched Braylon grow and invested yourself in his life. You have been a great support for us when we have needed grandparents, babysitters, and emergency contacts.
As a pastor leaves a calling, they need to leave the pastoral relationship behind as well. In age of connectedness with social media, the separation is harder. What you will find is that over the next year or two I may not be very responsive if at all on social media. It is not that I do not care any longer, nor is it that I do not want to be friends, but rather that I am no longer your pastor, and all things related to church and pastoral care need to be worked through with the pastors that follow. It is hard enough to walk into a new call, but it is even harder if the pastoral duties that you have been called to do are being done by others. This is difficult for all of us, as we develop our relationships and want to maintain them. But it is also important to build the new ones.
Please understand, I will forever love this congregation and pray for you, but I cannot be a source of pastoral care or church decisions any longer. I want what is best for this congregation, and what is best is to continue living as you, and do so alongside the pastors that follow after me. Blessings and peace.
In the grace of Jesus Christ,