As I said Sunday in church, we are standing on the edge of this beautiful month of May when everything seems poised to burst into blossom. Each year I watch, kind of in wonder, as the world unfurls in green and color around me. And now, we, as a spiritual community, stand right on the edge of new things coming into being as well.
These next weeks will bring your getting to meet Rev. Kit Novotny and Rev. Nate Klug for the first time, worshipping with them, and finally, getting to vote on whether to call them as your ministers. It has been a long road to get to this place, and you have worked hard and faithfully, and through a pandemic as well. I reflected a bit on this last Sunday and you can find that short homily “Traveling Mercies” here, if you’d like to read more.
That means we’re asked to hold in our hearts, all at one time, the joy and anticipation of this exciting time of meeting ministerial candidates, and the awareness of our impending “goodbye.” That’s quite a bit to hold at once. But as one of you told me recently in an email, we humans are capable of holding widely divergent emotions at the same time. We can do it. In fact, as William Blake once wrote, “joy and woe are woven fine” together throughout all of our lives.
In the weeks to come, I’ll be meeting with you in small groups and individually to have some conversations and begin the “letting go” process. Let me know if you’d like to meet with me in person or on Zoom, at the church, at your home. My last Sunday worship with you will be June 12th. A few days later, Rich and I will leave for a walking holiday in the United Kingdom and then I’ll continue on to Scotland to lead two retreats there.
As you may or may not know, there are guidelines regarding my connection with you once I leave my position as your interim minister. These come from the UU Ministers’ Association, which I’ve been part of since being ordained in 1988.
Because congregations are vulnerable during times of ministerial transition, it is best for me not to be in contact with you for several years. That allows your new ministers the chance to establish a pastoral relationship with you and get the new partnership in shared ministry off to a good strong start. You can find the full text of the guidelines here: https://www.uuma.org/page/guidelines#SoPPIII.G.
It is my experience that parishioners do not always understand or, frankly, like these guidelines. But please know that I will abide by them. I have had a wonderful four years with you as your interim minister, and I am sad to see the time draw to an end. That said, I agree to these guidelines and because of all of my ministerial experience, I think they make good sense. I have seen things go wrong in new ministries because of the over-involvement of a prior pastor. We have worked hard together to get this community ready for a successful next ministry; let’s follow through on that commitment.
As Sarah K said in her wonderful homily on Sunday, she loved her time at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. It shaped and formed her in so many ways. But as great as it was, that time needed to come to an end. So it is for my time as your interim ministry as well. It has been such an immense blessing in my life. And, it now needs to give way to the next chapter, in my life, and in yours.