The Long Goodbye
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As I sat at home over the holiday break, I knew first of all that once it ended I would be returning for a final run to the finish line of my tenure as General Minister and President; but also that this last season would feel different to me than any of the previous seasons I have had while serving in this office.
I knew that when I came back, it would begin to feel like I was approaching the end of a run I have enjoyed thoroughly from start to finish.
When I ran track, I was known as a kicker. It drove my coach nuts that I would wait for the last segment of the race and then just pour it on. When others were tiring, I would have saved something for the final kick and I would pass many, and sometimes all, of the racers. He would say, “you were lazy to start the race and if you can run like that at the end I want you doing it throughout.”
One race, I actually did what he said. I went out like I finished – hard and strong. I took an early lead and held it, feeling like a champ, until the final turn. In that turn, my legs began to feel like logs that I could not lift and I watched over the last hundred yards as almost the entire field passed me. I went back to my way of running – saving something til the end and then kicking hard to the finish. It worked for me.
All of that is to suggest that I have come around the final turn and I have saved something for the finish. I am far from exhausted, and still heavily invested in the race I have been running and how I will finish. I will not be coasting to the finish line, but kicking it hard the whole way and leaving nothing in the tank when I go. I do hope, and will plan for, a season of renewal when I finish – because as I tried to do with every race, I will come to the end exhausted from what has been a long, arduous, and energy-expending journey.
Later, I will have a chance to reflect more deeply on everything that has happened and the difference it made. But for now, even from this vantage point of turning a final corner and preparing for a strong finish, my overwhelming sense about it all is one of deep and profound gratitude.
I am having the best time at this. The people I meet and get to work with, the responsibilities I am entrusted with, and the experiences I have had bearing witness to the love incarnated in and by the people of the United Church of Christ have left me filled with gratitude. I really do love my job and wake up many mornings excited about what is coming.
As I and my staff engage more fully in preparations for our General Synod at which my successor will be elected, I invite all who are willing to join me in praying for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide this denomination through its time of discernment and transition.
Each season offers new opportunities.
Each leader brings new vision and an array of talents, passions, and lived experiences because of which a new future will unfold that only they can orchestrate.
I am already in prayer for my successor, whoever they may be; and for a United Church I love dearly because of what it stands for.
Without knowing yet what new chapter will unfold in my life on the other side of this rich experience, I nonetheless prepare for my last leg on this journey trusting that the very one who has shepherded me though these years will continue to abide with me. That is enough.
So, I take one last deep breath, round the last turn, open up my lungs, and stretch out my stride as I kick to the finish line. May God’s Holy Spirit continue to provide for me all the strength I need to complete this race, giving thanks for all that will unfold on this, our journey Into the Mystic.
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