A Final Word
About a dozen years ago, during a meeting of the local clergy in the New Jersey shore town where I was serving as interim at the Presbyterian Church, a nun, who ran the Catholic church next door, observed that it must be hard to be an interim. “You just get to know the people and to be part of the community, and you have to leave,” she said. I simply replied, “Sister, you have to remember that I taught college and seminary for twenty years. If my students and I didn’t part ways after three or four years, I had failed.” Indeed, that past experience does make it easier to serve as an interim and to leave. But it does so from the very beginning, because the task is not to stay, but to get the congregation to go ahead with full lives. And for any pastor, interim or installed, that is the point, for any pastor will leave at some point.
About two dozen issues ago of Grace Notes, I set out what was going to happen in the next couple of years. Those things have happened, and the church, judging from the vote at the congregational meeting on September 15, is now in a very happy place. I am happy for all of you. The one thing I hope for all of you is that you don’t forget the vision that you discovered during the time you spent on the mission study, or the learning how, through praying the Scriptures, to discern what God is calling this church to do and to be in the future. It is so much different than just figuring out what a bunch of individuals want, which is rarely the same thing, or, if it is, is probably suspect. I hope for each of you that you don’t lean on your pastors, but continue to be partners with them, and that none of you will be complacent, or refuse to leave your comfort zone.
This past weekend, I attended a fortieth college reunion. Forty years ago, each of us went our own ways, to different careers, to having families, to all sorts of joys and disappointments. One would think that after forty years, like buckshot out of a shotgun, we would be widely scattered in our interests and in what we had in common. Not so. The common experience of the books we read and discussed so long ago was formative, and the experience of forty more years of human life brought us together once again. We were profoundly grateful to see each other again, and to see that everybody was doing well. It wasn’t just about the past. Christian experience and friendship ought to be like that, and even more so. From a common grace, from the Lord’s Supper we have shared with each other, from a common Word that enlightens us, parting ways should not mean more differentiation, but a common life that we can celebrate when we meet again.
Many thanks from Brenda and me for your hospitality and kindnesses over the last two years. We wish you the best in what God is calling you to do.