Preparing for the New

Preparing for the New

This is my penultimate Oakleaves article. Next month’s will be my last and, in that communication, I want to focus on saying in writing thanks and good-bye. For this article, I want to prepare you for the boundaries which will form after I retire.

We will have a Congregational Meeting after worship on September 18 to act officially on my request to retire. All pastoral calls involve three parties: the pastor, the congregation, and the presbytery. When pastors leave for another call or retire, the congregation and the presbytery approve such changes in relationships. The official church language is to dissolve the pastoral relationship. Come November 1, I will no longer be pastor of our church.

The Interim Pastor Search Committee is hard at work securing interim leadership for the church. We are praying for a smooth transition this fall. But before the new era begins, the old must be ended with intention and clarity. Someone from our presbytery will meet with our Session to talk about “A Covenant of Closure.” The covenant makes clear that it will no longer be appropriate for me to have a pastoral relationship with the church and its members. Friendships are fine, but my involvement with and weighing in on church matters will cease.

This means no more weddings or funerals, on or off-site by me for church members, unless I am invited by the current pastor. I would go so far as to say, don’t put whoever is the next pastor on the spot by asking him or her to invite me. It’s not fair to the pastor or to the church’s call to move into God’s future. The covenant also makes clear that I should not invite members to join me in some on-line offering I might create. I am grateful for clear boundaries. They serve the health of us all.

Of course, there is need for a human acknowledgement of our twenty-four-year relationship. I am so very grateful for my years here. Rosanne and I are very blessed. God works through ordinary people like us to do God’s healing work in the world. We have sought to commune with and to respond faithfully to God in these years. That is worth celebrating. In doing so, you and Rosanne and I prepare ourselves for a future of ever greater communion with and faithfulness to God. For a while longer, see you in church!

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