Two weeks ago, a letter went to my congregation and I began the difficult work of saying goodbye. It’s different this time. I suppose it’s different every time. Last time, there were a lot more prayers. It’s not that I’m not praying right now. I am. Really, I am. But, this time is different.
We haven’t had the same amount of time. In my last call, I had the blessing of cultivated deep and abiding relationships over six wonderful years. Ok, ok, it was mostly wonderful. I still complained. But, this time, we’ve only shared in this ministry for two years. It feels too short. There were so many dreams that I had and so many things I still wanted to do — until love got in the way.
Even though it was the obvious answer, and I really couldn’t have done anything but follow the man that I love, it means that I’m leaving behind some things that I really wanted. There were things I was going to do here. There are things that I had already started that I had to drop because I couldn’t follow through — and I’m really sad about this. There is a big part of me that continues to wonder if I did anything while I was here in these two short years.
Especially this week, when injustice stomps heavy on our hearts, it’s hard to believe that this ministry has mattered. What good does sitting sipping cider with some 93-year-old do when this is happening in our world? Why bother sending thank you notes to faithful volunteers for their quiet service? Why waste my time writing a sermon about hope? What does it matter? What difference can it possibly make? But, then, I get two emails from two different church members with so much thanksgiving. One was thankful for my energy. Another told me I had encouraged her into deeper awareness of how scripture speaks to her (rather than just what the pastor says). She’s deepened her faith in these two short years because she’s had to search herself. Earlier this week, I was told that I’ve somehow encouraged an ownership of the ministry so that the church really isn’t as pastor-centered or even staff-centered. There is a greater sense of responsibility where somehow by the grace of God this church feels moved into greater service to each other and to the world. I don’t know if I did these things. I’m not sure that it was me that made the vitality that another church member now sees. I tend to think it was God. Ok, ok. I totally think it was God. Because I really think that it’s God that makes these things happen. But, I am so grateful.
I am thankful for these small reminders that my work matters. I’m thankful for the people that have offered such kind words — and I’m grateful for the ministry we’ve shared. Oh, and might I add. We’ve still got three months. We aren’t done yet.