I have just four more days as lead pastor of my church where I have served for over twenty-five years. I’ve already preached my last sermon. I’ve already been blessed by many prayers, cards, hugs, gifts, fun surprises, and beautiful words. These last few days are actually vacation days for me, but they and the last few months have been crammed full with fond farewells and many opportunities to reflect back with gratitude.
Goodbye to my wonderful congregation that took a risk in calling me to be the first woman in a leading pastoral role in their congregation and area church denomination. As a Mennonite church in history, tradition, and culture, you welcomed me in and made room for my story and personality and culture too. You saw more potential in those early days than I did, and I am amazed at how God has grown me, grown the church, and grown us together.
Goodbye to my church colleagues on staff and our weekly meetings with their unique combination of good conversation and good food. I’m grateful for our planning together, our prayers, and laughter. You made ministry less lonely, and I’m grateful for the way we could encourage one another.
Goodbye to times of prayer and hours of sermon prep and many meetings and visits in my office with walls the colour of sky and windows that face out to the community and world. I always liked working with my door open as much as possible to welcome anyone who might stop by to pray or visit, who had a concern or question, or just to say hello.
Soon I’ll need to stop saying “my” church, “my” congregation, “my” colleagues, “my” office as a new pastor begins. Soon the church and I will both move on. Our relationship will not exactly end, but be transformed as we move into a new reality. We’ll need some space and time to let go of what was, and make room for what might be. I pray you’ll receive a new pastor with a glad welcome, a willingness to work together, and great hope for the future.
In the week that followed my last Sunday at the church, I decided to plant some bulbs in my garden. In the midst of all the goodbyes it seemed so right to plan and plant a cheerful hello for next spring. At first I dreamed of bright daffodils, but the store had already sold out of daffodil bulbs, so I bought grape hyacinths instead. One, two, three, four, five small bulbs in the planter outside our front door, and the rest in the spot where my teddy bear sunflowers had finished blooming.
I’ve never planted grape hyacinths before. Will they be too wet or too dry or too cold this winter? Will they get enough light where they are come spring and summer? Will they spread too fast and take over the garden? I’ll be patient, just wait and see, and hope they’ll grow. One of my Facebook friends says she’ll be expecting pictures in the spring.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What goodbyes are you saying these days, and what hellos do you anticipate? What’s growing in your garden?
I’ll soon share news of an exciting hello that’s just around the corner for me!
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