On Leaving a Congregation…

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This week is my last week serving as associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church. The past few weeks have been surreal as I have attempted to remain mentally, emotionally, and spiritually present to this congregation, while at the same time reflecting on my time with and being in conversation with the people of University Presbyterian Church of Tempe, Arizona.

It feels weird to leave, but it feels right to go.

I am excited about lays ahead, but feeling some regret about what I am leaving behind and has been left unfinished. This past Sunday was my last here, and we included a Service of Dissolution of Pastoral Call that is in the Book of Occasional Services published by the Presbyterian Church, USA (©1999) through the Office of Theology and Worship—unfortunately, not available in print anymore anywhere I can find. In any case, it includes this litany prayer:

Let us pray for the saving presence of our living Lord:
In your world,
     be present, Lord.
In this congregation,
   be present, Lord.
In this community,
   be present, Lord.
In this presbytery and the whole Church,
   be present, Lord.
In the homes and hearts of all your people,
   be present, Lord.

For work begun but not completed,
   Lord, have mercy.
For expectations not met,
   Lord, have mercy.
For wounds not healed,
   Lord, have mercy.
For gifts not shared,
   Lord, have mercy.
For promises not kept.
   Lord, have mercy.

For friendships made,
for joys celebrated
and for times of nurture and growth,
   thanks be to God.

For wounds healed,
expectations met,
gifts given and promises kept,
   thanks be to God.

For our fellowship in Jesus Christ,
and for the love of God which has sustained us,
   thanks be to God.

It’s a powerful prayer of grace, forgiveness, and a reminder to me that God is always present and always working on us, in us, and through us, and that no matter what happens, God’s love continues to flow.

I am sad this week. I am saying goodbye to a lot of good friends and fellow journeyers—I know we will stay touch with some or that our paths will cross again, but it will be different. I am excited about what lays ahead and the opportunity to gain new friends and walk with new journeyers. It is a terrible mix of feelings and emotions, but I continue to try to rest in the love, goodness, and trustworthiness of God.

And, so, I close this year with the charge and blessing I shared this past Sunday at the end of worship, from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People (©2008 Abingdon Press):

The news is that God’s wind is blowing.
   It may be a breeze that cools and comforts.
   It may be a gust that summons you to notice.
   It may be a storm that blows you
         where you have never been before.
Whatever the wind is in your life,
   pay attention to it . . .
      and the blessings of God,
      Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
         will abide with you always. Amen.

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