As I said, my birthday was not a banner day. There were a lot of things that went on in the course of the day that were unusual and not terribly pleasant, but I won’t go into all of that. I had planned to come home and make myself something special for dinner (boy, that sounds pathetic as I write it!) and just relax but our pastor had asked me to come and meet with him instead. I didn’t want to say no because it was my birthday because I didn’t have any real plans to cite as my reason, so I said yes. But I had a bad feeling about it. It seemed odd that he wanted to meet with me the night before a regularly scheduled meeting we have. I spent a lot of time the night before mulling it over in my mind and just kept coming back to one particular idea…and the fact that it wasn’t good.
So, I came home, got some bad Chinese takeout and headed out to my meeting. I had some errands to run and since we were meeting in a bookstore’s coffee shop, I thought I would turn my bad day around by buying myself a book or two for my birthday. I did that and settled in to wait. When he arrived, I was even more certain that he was going to tell me something bad. When my friend’s husband who was also meeting with us arrived, he handed me a card from his wife and said he didn’t know what it was for but she had told him to give it to me. I said it was my birthday and the look on the pastor’s face told me again that the news wasn’t going to be good. He said he was sorry, if he had known it was my birthday he would have made the meeting for the day before instead.
To make a long story short, he’s leaving our church. He feels that he is being called to start (we call it “plant”) a new church in an area about an hour and half or so away. My friend’s husband and I sat in stunned silence. I had had a hunch that this was it but when it was said out loud, it was hard to take. Two years ago, our associate pastor, who was a very good friend and mentor to me, left. I was absolutely devastated. I went through all the stages of grieving their loss and when this announcement was made, all I could think was I can’t do this again. Then I immediately started to think of his kids and wife and how hard this must be on all of them. I truly believe that this decision was an exceptionally difficult one for them and that it isn’t one they would have chosen on their own. But sometimes God makes choices for us that we don’t understand and sometimes don’t like…but will ultimately see a reason for and good in. I think this is one of those situations.
I have run the emotional gamut since then. You honestly do go through the stages of grieving in a situation like this. Mostly, I’ve been angry, I’ve been depressed, I’ve felt abandoned. It was hard being one of the first to know, too. I kept trying to figure out how others would react and to steel myself to deal with whatever reactions came. The announcement was supposed to be made last Sunday but we got snowed out. We still had our leadership meeting that night and I’m glad for that. I am glad the leadership team heard the news first and was able to talk to people yesterday after the news was brought to the congregation. I know some people are completely shocked and overwhelmed by the news. It’s a lot to take in. He started this church from nothing almost nine years ago. He’s been the only pastor I’ve personally had in my life. He baptized me. He’s helped me through some huge challenges in ministry and helped direct me when I was getting off course personally. And I’m sure many others feel the same way about him as I do – and some have even more of a history and friendship with him than I do.
As part of the management team, I’ll be on the team that helps to select a new pastor. I’m glad to be involved in the process but have so many questions at this point. I just don’t know what to expect or what will be expected of me…I hope that I am up to the task. It is going to be a difficult few months, to say the least. If you are praying folk, please pray for me, our congregation, my pastor and his family…we will all need it.
I had my children’s ministry meeting yesterday right after the announcement was made and I was completely blown away by the outcome. Regardless of all of our personal feelings and the sense of loss and uncertainty, I really feel like we are all even more dedicated to caring for and serving the children of our church through this and beyond. I’m so thankful for the people I serve with and who are a part of this team. After dealing with the news myself for some time and seeing some of them come out shell-shocked yesterday, it was a total blessing to sit down and find us all still united in our mission. I know God was at work in that room and will be at work throughout this situation…and that gives me comfort.