One of my biggest learning curves is going to be learning how to minister in a church where I won't know all of the members. I'll know the lay leaders, those who are really involved, of course. And I guess that will be enough! I don't know...that's going to be really strange.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to two weeks of vacation, one of which will be on Beaver Lake near Eureka Springs. We've rented a cottage -- the same one we've had twice before. It's so beautiful there; I can't wait!
Here is the "Leaving" article I published in our church newsletter yesterday.
Contemplating with Katherine
This is my last newsletter article for First Congregational, and that fills me with sadness. As I take my leave, I thought I'd share with you my sense of what it means to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how that shapes our relationships.
The position of clergy is a bit of strange--in one sense we work for the Church as an institution and are employees like any other. I can be hired and fired, and the relationship is hierarchical. When viewed strictly from a business model, you might say I'm the hired help. When viewed from another, much more important way, however, I am not the hired help at all. As an employee of an institution, I work for the church. But for the church as The Body of Christ, I serve the church, and I do so without reserve, with zero diminishment of who I am because I am in a covenantal relationship with the Body of Christ.
The relationship as covenantal means a number of things. First, our tradition holds that as clergy I'm "set apart" from laity in the sense of a recognition of a particular inward calling from the Holy Spirit to serve the Body of Christ and a recognition of certain gifts and graces for ministry. It doesn't mean "set above" or "set below." Set apart, yes, but we are all ministers to each other. We are equally the servants of God in and for the world.
Second, my covenantal relationship with the Body of Christ means that we are called to love each other. That has many layers of meaning, of course, but let me focus on the most personal aspects of my side of the relationship and what this means to me.
For many years now I've known that the real purpose of my life is to become more and more like Christ. To become more Christ-like includes becoming more loving. The first step is always to love myself, for until I love myself, all the love I direct toward others is mostly inauthentic. Amazingly, as I've struggled to learn to love myself more authentically over the years, I've fallen more and more in love with God. And as I love God increasingly with my whole heart, just as amazingly, I have learned to authentically love others.
Having said that, the truth is also that much of the time I fail to love. For various reasons, I hold back. I fail because I start to think that I can love strictly under my own power, forgetting that love is always a gift from God. To the extent that I have failed to love here in the last 4 and 1/2 years, I ask your understanding.
I haven't always failed, however. When I think back over these years, I'm overjoyed at the many ways I see how love has guided and filled me. My purpose in life has moved forward here at First Congregational, for I believe that I've increased in my capacity to love, to allow God to love through me.
And now I reap the consequences of that love.
As I leave this place, leave this particular manifestation of my covenantal relationship with the Body of Christ, I must allow myself to feel the pain of sadness that is always interwoven with love--the cost of love in a world bounded by temporality and the changes that temporality always brings. You have been a HUGE blessing to me. I'll carry with me to my new position at Cathedral of Hope many memories of the Spirit moving powerfully among us, memories of loss and grief, as well as fun and laughter. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of walking with you through life for these years.
Glad to have been your pastor,