Taking a wee break from writing over the next week. After meeting meeting our blessed granddaughter, Antonia, and spending lots of time with her wonderful brother, Louie, this week, it is time for some inward reflection. I made the decision two weeks ago to finally leave pastoral ministry. It has been two years + in the making and I feel a deep, deep peace (My departure letter is below.)
So now it is time to listen carefully for new directions. I have a few clues and will follow up on them as the new week unfolds. But mostly this will be a time of solitude and Sabbath trusting that the One who is Holy not only knows better than I do, but that she will help me gain clarity as it becomes necessary. Last week, as I prepared my worship notes for this morning, I was struck by the fact that after his call into public ministry, Jesus went into the desert.
Traditionally this has been interpreted as a time of testing - and that is true. But based on the insights of Vanier and Rohr I have started to believe that it was also a deepening of his commitment to becoming little. Open and alert like the small child Jesus often says is the one most receptive to the presence of the kingdom of God. Jesus waits upon the Lord in silence. He becomes less so that God can become greater. Vanier writes: when we, like Jesus, recognize our own weaknesses, we can ask for help. We can work together. We can become the Body as we realize we need each other.
Fr. Richard Rohr recently wrote something similar: The root of violence is the illusion of separation - from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything. When you don't know you are connected and one, you will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power you lack. Contemplation gradually trains you not to make so much of the differences, but to return to who you are (your true self in God)( which is always beyond nationality, religion, skin color, gender and sexuality... (For) when you can become little enough, naked enough and honest enough, then you will ironically find that you are more than enough. At this place of poverty and freedom, you have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. You can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs.
I trust this is true at my core. I am stepping out in faith and
bringing one ministry to a close so that another might unfold. And I am going to listen quietly for a spell as a child to see what might be shared. (NOTE: the following is my letter of retirement.)
September 15, 2017
Dear Colleagues and Friends at First Church:
It has become clear that the time for me to move fully into my retirement is upon us. While away in Quebec recently I wrestled vigorously with this decision. I thought there might be creative alternatives to explore. I was mistaken. There are three fundamental reasons why I believe now is the right time for me to fully retire from pastoral ministry at First Church:
• Many of you know the agonizing health crises my family faced this past year. When I prayerfully look at whatever years remain for me, I sense God’s insistence that I claim a new way of living with these precious people now.
• The work our community is doing re: financial responsibility – using our facility as a resource rather than an albatross – continues, albeit in slow and complicated ways. This effort will bear fruit in the long run, but I do not have the stamina necessary to see this project to completion.
• Two years ago I discerned that just as God once called me into pastoral ministry, God has now called me out. For 35+ years I have served the Body of Christ with joy; that joy is now concluded. I trust that the Lord has something new in store for me even if I am not fully clear what that means. So, listening with my heart, I will begin another leg of my journey in faith beyond parish ministry.
I am working out the details with Personnel to include a public celebration of our ministry together sometime early in the New Year. During this transition I want to be intentional in saying our farewells carefully in the spirit of Christ. I cherish the people of First Church and Pittsfield and seek to use this time to faithfully bring our shared ministry to a respectful close. This has added significance for me as I am not moving on to a new congregation, but a whole new way of living as I enter full retirement.
I am grateful for the hard work and sacrificial love many of us have shared in Christ’s name. I am touched by the kind words the Moderator has offered in support of my retirement. I give thanks to God for the fulfillment of my season at First Church even as the Spirit leads me towards new vistas.
Grace and peace to you,
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