Sunday, July 16, 2006


On Friday morning I made my final pastoral visit. It was to an older member of the congregation who is in a rehabiltation center after falling and sustaining an injury. No sooner did she go to the rehab center than her husband's health took a turn for the worse. It doesn't look good for him, and she's facing the possibility of being separated from him in his last days. I haven't been very available for pastoral visits since Joshua's birth as I have been tethered to either him or a pump, so I had almost forgotten what a humbling experience it is to sit with someone who is facing the loss of their partner for life. A busy rehab center, with therapists and nurses darting in and out, is transformed into a sacred space. The few minutes we have to cry together become holy time, kairos time. I feel so small in the face of loss so enormous, and realize that only a fool would put themselves in a position to try to bring the word of comfort to someone in such agony. But it isn't about me. It's about her and her husband and God, and I am called only to be fully present to her and her pain, to try to communicate to her somehow that her hurt may be too big for her, and it may be too big for me, but it is not too big for God. If she feels any comfort, any relief, it is only because God is present there with us, creating an opening, so small that we may not even be aware of it, where healing can begin. To say that it is an honor to be there with her is too trite. It is holy. It is sitting in the very presence of God, and there simply are no words.

This morning I preached my final sermon to this congregation. I ditched the lectionary (because when I rebel, I really rebel) and I preached on my hopes for the congregation. Afterwards we had brunch together. There were some things that I wanted to share as people were eating, but it seemed that the time for tears had passed. It seemed that everyone was just too emotionally drained to be dragged into more heart-wrenching moments, so I refrained. Instead I said goodbye to people as they left. Along with brunch was a card shower. I have a huge stack of cards sitting in my backpack. I decided not to open them yet because I am too emotionally drained. I will wait, probably until we get to my grandmother's house on Tuesday, when I can actually sit down and read them carefully.

I have about a million other thoughts running through my head, but I can't seem to articulate them. I'm going to go to bed, but I know I won't sleep. The movers come bright and early tomorrow morning.

And so does a new beginning.


Gran said...

Well, that was a tear-jerker for a Mon. morning.

Jennifer said...

I knew you were a rebel all along. I hope everything goes well! :D

TLS said...
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TLS said...

Leaving congregations IS emotionally draining...I have half a blog post still in draft form about my leave last month. There are no words to convey the depth of the sacred that we come to know as pastors...even with those who give us the most "trouble" in ministry, even with the most dysfunctional and passive-aggressive congregations. I suspect it has to do with our privileged glimpse into to the lives of so many. We share the most intimate details of people's lives and then one day pack up and move is hard to pack up relationships. Yet, life goes on, a new pastor comes and you discover a world outside of the parish that is alive and brilliant. New beginnings are good. Hope you enjoy yours!

The Thief said...

Yeah, leaving a congregation can be draining. It can also be the most liberating thing in the world. In fact, a year after my most recent move, I think the weekly nightmares have finally stopped!

anna said...

MB, I can't even imagine the torn thoughts and emotions. Leaving the island I have a small glimpse of what you must be feeling but honestly I think that that moment of leaving such a place has to be one of the hardest things a person has to go through.

My thoughts are with you as you travel and move.
Those cards will bring you tears of joy and saddness but you'll be glad you have them to cherish forever.
Let us know when you've landed safetly.