On Sunday, June 17, my congregation celebrated my ministry of thirteen years, upon the occasion of my retirement. (I will still be working behind the scenes in June and on-call through July, but that was my last Sunday service.) I was overwhelmed with their expressions of love and appreciation. I will miss everyone so much.
There were so many amazing touches to the celebration, including this tiny (6 inches across) diorama of my life created by Kathy N. with details including my guitar, a stole I wear when I preach, tiny protest signs, the cover of my actual book, our fire circle, cherry tree, rain barrel and garden tools. The celebration included a reflection from me and testimonials from a few church members, and a poem and a funny song created for me, and more. There was a gorgeous rendition of Jeremy Geffen’s song “Mystery,” done by the choir and instrumentalists, along with other beautiful music. They also honored me with the designation of Minister Emerita, and gave me beautiful gifts. There was a photo slideshow of moments from my ministry. We danced around the dawn redwood tree. And ate delicious food, and I received so many hugs, including from the children.
The ministry relationship is so very deep in a particular way. Not the same as friendship, but filled with intimacy. During conversations with people during the meal, I kept remembering the significant moments I had shared with them. I remembered their loved ones who had died during my ministry. I remembered the joyful weddings, and the painful separations. I remembered our work together in the community that I helped to hold and cherish. I felt the blessing of our relationships.
In retirement, I am leaving those relationships behind. That will be the hardest part. I am relieved to let go of the work. My body just can’t do it any longer. This year has been hard with many auto-immune flare-ups, days of exhaustion, and just barely keeping up with everything. I am ready to lay that down. But I will miss the people. Not that I will never see them again. I will be in the same city, and our paths will likely cross occasionally. But in our tradition, the retiring minister disappears for a while, to give people a chance to form a ministry relationship with someone new. The Interim Minister has already been chosen, and will arrive August 1st.
Meanwhile, I am cleaning out my office, and saying goodbye to staff members, and taking care of transitional details. But I feel absolutely full of gratitude and amazement for these wonderful people, that I was lucky enough to serve and to love during these past thirteen years. Just wow!