I’m not really sure where the saying “coming down to the wire” originated, but I’m sure there is some interesting history behind it. For me, it means that I am very close to a major change from working full time to retirement.
At this point, we have arrived at my last Sunday in these two churches. I still have a week of annual conference meetings and activities, but immediately after the annual conference, I go on vacation for the remaining two weeks of June. Therefore, I’m technically ending my ministry here because I will head right into retirement at the end of my vacation time. I planned it that way so I could provide breathing space for the congregations between my leaving and the new pastor arriving.
It’s so interesting to see how people react when they know a pastor is leaving. Some interesting interactions have occurred. Some folks keep telling me that I can’t retire. I hear it as a compliment, and I recognize their own need to have consistency and familiarity in their church life. I worry about them clinging so closely to my presence that they won’t accept the new pastor or even give the new pastor a chance.
Others have clearly said that they know these times come in the life of a church. Even though they hate to see me leave, they also wish me well and feel that I’ve worked hard to reach retirement.
Still others are friendly and caring, but they don’t talk about it at. Currently, both churches are planning my farewell parties, so a lot of people aren’t telling me much of anything. Maybe they are afraid that they might slip and give away something, but I have almost no information about anything. It’s almost as if I have already left. Come to think of it, maybe it feels like that to them in some ways since I have backed off a lot of things, and we have moved about half an hour away.
Although I continue to keep my office hours, the emails have slowed way down, and I rarely have anyone call or visit. It makes sense to me, but it feels strange. Is this what a “lame duck” feels like? I really don’t know. It’s not a bad experience, just different.
There are advantages to being able to tell congregations early in the year that you are retiring or leaving, but there can also be disadvantages. I tend to think that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. We have had lots of time to work through saying “good-bye,” even though there are still the farewells to go through. In addition, it has given me the chance to plan my scriptures and sermons so that they focus the congregation on Christ as the head of the church and change isn’t bad.
This coming Sunday, we will celebrate Children’s Day, and the last portion of the service will be a farewell liturgy when I will release them from relying on me. The parties follow that week, and then we are gone. I believe we have worked hard together to accomplish the transition and preparation well. In addition, I think the laity are more aware (at least some of them are) about how important their role in ministry really is.
I have repeatedly told them that this is a partnership together not only with God but with each other. Hopefully, these are learnings and reminders that they will take with them regardless of how many times they have a change in pastors.
It’s been interesting. This blog started as my retirement blog, and I will continue to write about my journey. For those of you who have read it, thanks for the feedback and affirmations! I’ll be writing again!