I have just over 4 weeks left at the church I currently serve. It’s funny how people react when they know you are leaving. I have had a range of different responses recently.
Some people have been kind enough to say that they will miss me. I will certainly miss this church – leaving the church feels a bit like leaving home!
Some people have joked about me leaving, which I guess is a sort of coping mechanism. If you finding me joking about it too you can be sure that it’s me trying to cope too!
Some are really interested in what I will be doing in my upcoming role as a Regional Minister. I appreciate their interest and support but I also want to try to ‘run through the tape’ here rather than anticipating the new role too much.
Others have been telling me how many Sundays I have left, or even how many days. I think that they are trying to say how imminent it all feels but it can also feel like they are counting down the days until I am gone!
Let me say that in all of these approaches I really appreciate the interest, support, encouragement, conversation and fellowship that is behind them. Please don’t be deterred from talking to me about all of this. No criticism is intended in what I have written above, it’s merely my observations.
Over the next month I will be having ‘last [insert meeting or event]’ occasions. There will be farewells and handing on of roles and batons. I don’t find saying goodbye easy, especially when I have such a strong affection for this church (by which I mean these wonderful people).
I will let you into a little secret. When I finished at my first church, prior to going to serve at Baptist House (Baptist Union of Great Britain’s office) I drove home alone after the evening service and had to stop because I couldn’t see through the tears. Then, the next day, I left home to drive to Baptist House and again had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears. They were tears of sadness at leaving behind some amazing people, they were tears of joy that I had had the privilege of serving those people, and they were also an expression of a deep gutteral, visceral emotion that a part of me was being left behind with them.
I think I understand some of what Paul writes in some of his letters about his great affection for churches. I am not sure that there is any other ‘job’ in which you get to know people in the same way as clergy know and love their congregation. You are with people in the heights and depths of life (the ‘rollercoaster’ I mentioned last night in a sermon). You share not only in people’s lives but you also have a common faith and walk with them together as brothers and sisters – you are ‘family’. No wonder it feels as difficult as leaving home. I suspect that there will be a few more tears over the next month.
If you wonder why people belong to a church, perhaps my experience will give you a clue…
Be blessed, be a blessing