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."