The Long Goodbye
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In January of this year, I started to feel like I was on a long, slow march to goodbye. Almost every week, something would happen about which I would say “well, I’m doing that for the last time.”
I have had my last Board meeting. I have taken my last overseas trip. I have only one more flight to take while serving in office. I had my last in person gathering with the Council of Conference Ministers. I attended my last National Council of Churches meetings. I visited my last church this past Sunday.
So many encounters through these months were with leaders and friends who knew they were seeing me for the last time while serving as the GMP. For months now I have had the joy of hearing them thank me for my time in office. That has been very gratifying.
I find myself walking the halls of our Cleveland office and stopping in to talk to our staff – and many of them have shared with me that they are sad to see me go. Too many times, I leave their office with a little tear forming. As I write this, I have only eight days left upon which I will be working in the office.
I don’t remember when the first Into the Mystic Podcast aired, but there have been over 325 since that time and this will be my last one. In these reflections I have tried to simply offer a perspective on how we encounter the sacred in every-day occurrences. It has been an overt attempt on my part to ground myself and anyone willing to listen in the movement of the holy among us. Life is hard – and taking the time to center the sacred is an important and life-giving discipline.
This long goodbye has been a reminder to me how much I love this job. In it, I encounter leaders every day who embody the love of God. I have been able to bear witness to the manifestations of love, and how that love changes lives, changes futures, changes communities.
I have been calling this long goodbye my season of gratitude. I started in March posting 100 days of gratitude on my social media pages as a way of giving thanks for the joy of being able to do for these last eight years all the amazing things that attach to bearing witness to the works of love offered to the world by the people who make up the United Church of Christ.
I leave with a treasure trove of memories and a multitude of friendships forged in the work of being disciples together.
Every church I have worship and celebrated with, every pastor I have sat with and listened to, every Conference Minister I have conspired or prayed or marched with, every lay leader whose story I have heard has filled me with deep gratitude.
I find it has been harder to leave this office than it ever was to enter it. And still, I leave with a sense of joy and even excitement knowing that God has already spoken to me and called me down another pathway. As has always been the case, when we open ourselves fulling to the calling of the Holy Spirit every goodbye, even long ones, transforms an ending into a new beginning.
January came and introduced me not just to my long goodbye, but the grief that was always attendant to it. But as June opens, the grief is accompanied by the invitation to another call. Yesterday, a vote was taken to affirm me as the newly called pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in DeKalb IL. I am grateful for the trust they are placing in me to hold that office. And yes, I am excited that come October 2 I will start anew there. Mimi and I have a new house in a new town with new neighbors – and we are just miles away from two grandchildren I have not been able to visit much over the last eight years.
All in all, I am happy and grateful. A bit sad still, but happy and grateful mostly. And even the grief is now seen as gift – a tangible reminder of how special it has been to hold the office you entrusted to me for eight years and to work alongside some very gifted leaders whom I will miss dearly.
For everything – thank you. And for what is yet to come, I stand ready to receive all blessings on this, our journey Into the Mystic.
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