A few years ago, I wrote My 22 Best Practices in 22 Years of Pastoral Ministry. Among other over-arching themes and practical life hacks, I included: Do what you love. Pray. Invest in on-going learning. Discover a sense of wonder again and again. Run to Jesus.
Now in honour of my 25 years of pastoral ministry, I add one more best practice:
Know when it’s time to say good-bye.
No, I am not “retiring” in the sense of stopping all work, nor am I “resigning” in the sense of reluctantly giving up or giving in to the inevitable. Instead, for me this is a response to God’s Spirit blowing in a new direction in my life: to invest more deeply in my writing and publishing while also remaining open to ministry in another setting. In the short term that means tending to this website and my writing blog, plus a book of lectionary-based sermons for CSS Publishing scheduled for release in 2019. Beyond all of that, I look forward to what else God might have in store for me!
I plan to say more about my journey as part of my sermon this Sunday, and since I’m giving notice for November, there will be time to unpack this more with the congregation and plan for transition. For now, below is my letter that has been shared already with our church council and congregation. I offer it here with thanks for our wonderful years of ministry together, and as one example of healthy process that I hope might encourage others.
Dear Emmanuel Church Council and Congregation,
This last Easter, I completed 25 years of pastoral ministry at Emmanuel. This time has been a great privilege, and no words can adequately express the wonder, depth, and richness of these years together. I am grateful and blessed beyond measure.
The gospel of John says that the Spirit of God blows where it wills, and to my surprise, the Spirit blew me into pastoral ministry here with you. Since then, it has been the deep work of the Spirit that has energized and sustained me and all of us.
Now I sense that the Spirit is blowing me in a new direction, to complete my ministry at Emmanuel and for me to engage more deeply in writing and publishing, while also remaining open to new ministry in some other setting.
As I look ahead, my direction is to conclude my ministry at Emmanuel this November 2018, with November 9 as my last day in the church office and November 4 my last Sunday.
I wish we were sitting together to talk about this, especially since some of you have spoken personally with me about the future, and I was not able to share this at the time. Given my growing conviction, it was necessary to speak first with the chair of our personnel committee, the chair and vice-chair of our church council, as well as our deacons and the rest of council. I trust you will understand, and I look forward to our further conversation.
Following Jesus is a journey of faith, and I have so appreciated sharing that journey with you. Over the next months, there will be opportunity to reflect on what that has meant for us, and what it will mean going forward in the next stage of the journey, both for Gary and me, and for you as a congregation.
The church and church institutions in general have not always been good at endings, so I pray that we will end well together. Although our relationship will change, we’ll still be brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and I trust we will still count one another as friends.
God’s peace and blessing to all of you.
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