Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Looking Back, and of course, Forward

It has been a year -- a good and tearful, exciting and anxious year.  Last year, the week after Easter, I announced my plans to leave my pastoral position at the end of August.  The small group conversations and congregational letter set in motion a series of shifts and turns and momentous new experiences that have brought us to this vantage point for looking back. 

How has it been?  Blessed.
Has it been hard?  Of course.
Do I miss anything?  Lots.
Do I regret my decision?  Not for a second.

I had an important advantage:  I wasn't merely moving away from something; I was simultaneously moving toward something different.  Like Job, I had helpful and expert friends who were sure they understood.  "You are simply burned out.  Step aside, relax, and then move to another church."  Rest and relocation, they counseled with certitude, would fix me up in no time.

The only problem was I didn't feel broken.  Tired?  Guilty.  Burned out?  Well, I don't think so but I'm not the expert.  All I know is that all I found myself thinking about in my free time was this new direction -- and my "free time" was starting to encroach on the rest of my time.  I was eager to pursue this new passion.

Do I miss anything?  Yes, the relationships both professional and social.  I haven't moved that far away, but it's different -- as it should be.  We talk occasionally, various ones from the church; we have socialized a bit.  But those I used to see multiple times in a week I now connect with once every couple of months.  That is a hole that hasn't been filled.  For 19 years these people were my life.  I miss them.

I didn't miss undertaking a stewardship campaign, or nominating officers and ministry chairs; I didn't miss budget negotiations or the annual plea for help "undecorating" the sanctuary after Christmas.  But I was surprised at how much I missed planning an observance of advent in December, and much easier Christmas Eve was than I had expected.  I missed planning special lenten services, and Holy Week services were especially poignant in a way that Easter surprisingly was not.  Part of that might be that for 30 years I struggled -- largely unsuccessfully -- to persuade congregants to enter into the fullness of the Passion story instead of simply skipping from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection.  Easter, on the other hand, always struck me as too much pressure to generate too many fireworks for too many people for whom the breathtaking Good News of the Resurrection ought to have been splendor enough. 

And I don't miss the anticipation of the post-Easter and summer slumps.  My anticipation now is getting asparagus crowns planted and the garden tilled and divining how to get the rain water from the barrels conveniently to the furrows.  Those challenges seem, frankly, infinitely more fun.