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Room in Your Heart

Michelle over at 33 Names of Grace has a really beautiful post up about how we love congregations, and how congregations love pastors, and about how both can continue to open their hearts to love again when their is a change of pastoral appointment.

She writes, "Whenever anyone says to me, "I'm glad you are here" they pretty much say immediately after that "But I loved my previous pastor, too." I usually just listen but would it help if I said this: I loved my previous church too. It is a strange thing to be a pastor, to have a job that invites you to love a people and then be ready to leave them, and to leave them completely enough that they can connect to the new person whose job it is to love them, and so on. It is privileged and odd work, and it is the work to which I have been called.

When I became Zane's mother, I was once going on to my spiritual director about how completely he filled my heart. "I can't imagine having another child," I said. She smiled that wise smile at me and said, "You don't split your love with another child. Your heart expands." I didn't believe her. Then Theo came along. Hoo boy, I could never have imagined this expanse of love inside me before I became a parent, and of two children."

I, too, of late, have heard from folks in my previous appointment about how much they enjoy their new pastor. Of course, this is what I told them would happen, even though it was hard to see as I was leaving! God created us out of love and to love one another. Sometimes we surprise even ourselves with our capacity to love again and more and in differently.

It's a lesson I'm learning myself, even as I share it so confidently with others. I, too, wondered if I could ever have the same relationship with a new congregation as my old congregation. And the answer is both yes and no. I will never have another first appointment, and I will never have the same people in my congregation or be in the same community. So no, I can never have the same experience twice. But can my heart hold in it love for another community of faith? As I journey through Lent with my new congregation, even in the midst of struggles of many kinds, I can confidently answer, "Yes."


Anonymous said…
What a beautiful and loving post! As the mother of 4,Grandma of one...I can relate to the ever-expanding room in our hearts!!
Kathryn said…
Thank you for posting this, from one immersed in the disengagement part of the transition process, and feeling the sadness of goodbyes too acutely today.
Rev Paul Martin said…
Hi Beth,

I like that idea of the expanding heart. I still feel deeply for the churches I served as a lay pastor on the Isle of Man. In 18 months I may be moving and will need to love again although I will certainly remember the people here in Devon with huge affection.

I think that when we move it is important to encourage those whom we leave to be open to love what may be a very different minister who follows us.

My superintendent is moving on and being replaced this Summer. With our situation, it makes your post very apt.

Take care

Unknown said…
Beth, you have no idea how much I needed to read this today of all days! I am currently in a time of discernment and as I was praying today, I realized that I often feel in the midst of ministry that I am more like a midwife than a traditional pastor; coaxing and discerning how to help my congregation breathe, trust the process, and to allow God's larger Mystery to lead the way. Thanks!
klh said…
This is so well put. I still love our first congregation so much, and I think it really is love, and not just the enjoyment of being effective and having been appreciated, because I really am so glad to see how much well they are doing in their new situation, as well.

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