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The Long Goodbye

Sorry for the light blogging. I'm 9 days away from my move to New Jersey, and my calendar is jam packed with lunches and dinners with friends, family, and church folks. On the upside, I don't think I'll have to get my own food from now until I'm settled into New Jersey. I'm being treated to meals left and right, and having a good time spending time with loved ones.

The downside: This goodbye is very hard, and very long. On the 12th I sang a solo in worship - I usually sing a solo once a year for summer special music. I sang, "You are Mine," that beautiful song in The Faith We Sing. I was doing ok until the last verse when I realized people were crying, including my mother, who was there, and that did me in. And I hate crying in front of people.

This Sunday, the 19th, I celebrated three baptisms, the last three I will perform at St. Paul's. What a joy - celebrating baptisms - probably my favorite thing in ministry. I baptized my cousin's child (the picture is of him with my grandmother), and he dropped his pacifier into the baptismal font. My cousin said she'd have to keep it forever, since it is now clearly blessed in holy water. The choir director presented me with a blanket made in my favorite colors, since the choir director will be out of town on my last Sunday.

And all week I'm doing last things - last nursing home service, last meals with other parishioners who will be away this week, last administrative councils (ok - I didn't cry over that one.) My emotions are right under the surface, and honestly, I usually prefer to keep them down a bit farther than that!

At the same time, I head out tomorrow morning to spend a day in Franklin Lakes. Firsts, hellos: moving things into my office. Meetings with members of the staff and leaders of committees. First visit without being helped along in the day by my predecessor, who is now two months into his own new appointment. I'm really excited to be going - starting. I've been imagining what things will be like for months now, and I want to begin, dig in. There's so much hope in a new start, a new beginning, and it's almost like I'm starting a new school year, fresh packs of paper and all.

I've been blessed by thoughtful cards and notes from folks in both Franklin Lakes and Oneida. Folks in Oneida are writing to share memories of our four years together. Franklin Lakes members have been writing to wish me a speedy recovery, and to offer to help me get to know the town, take me to meals, settle me into the parsonage.

I know, oh faithful readers, you are probably tired of hearing about all this transition talk, but of course, this is virtually the only thing on my mind (besides the joy of getting to babysit my nephew this week.) Bear with me a bit longer!

My strategy, and a request for advice: In an effort to actually survive my last Sunday, I can't imagine referring in my sermon to the fact that it's my last Sunday. I think I'll preach just like it was any other Sunday. We're having a potluck following worship, and I think there will be time for goodbyes then. Does that seem sensible? Have you preached a last sermon somewhere? What did you say/do? How did you 'survive'?


Anonymous said…
I think you have to acknowledge that it is your last Sunday for both of you. Otherwise it is the elephant in the living room. And this Sunday will be difficult and full of wonderful joys.
DogBlogger said…
"You Are Mine" is a great song. It's one of my top 3 in TFWS. I'm sure when you sang it, it was lovely.
Rev Paul Martin said…
As a layworker on the Isle of Man responsible for pastoral care pof four churches, I preached at my farewell service which was a Circuit event. I got through it Ok.

The social farewell was moving but emotionally wiped me out. I had to drive with my family to the town of Peel to watch midnight fireworks when it was over. I deeply felt the end of something good.

I attended a service the following Sunday when my family were in the pews. I really felt it when at the end, the organist played, "We'll meet again" and "You'll never walk alone." The next day we caught the ferry back to the UK. I have been back three times, twice in reponse to requests to speak at funerals and once for holiday(we are going again next year). I always feel on return as if on holy ground.

I have moved on but the emotions of being with a congregation you have experienced so much with, remains deep.

I wish you well as you leave the community you have loved and learn to love a new community.
DMC said…
Beth - What I have learned, having recently left an appointment after 6 years, is that the tears and the joy were co-mingled for me and for all the people in the pew. For me to be honest, and to express those feelings and emotions, allowed them to do the same. Saying goodbye well, and honestly, meant that they, and I, could/can also say "hello" in a wonderful and life giving way! There is nothing easy about moving and change!
Blessings on the journey - Denise

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