Category Archives: 2015-08

Pastor’s Pen for August, 2015

Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21.6) This will be the last newsletter article that I will write as your pastor before I retire on August 31. For that reason, there are several things that I want to be sure to say to you before I go. 1) First of all, I want to say "Thank you" for the privilege of serving as your pastor. I feel genuinely blessed by being among you these past four years. Although everything hasn't always gone as smoothly or in the directions that I might have wished, I have genuinely enjoyed knowing and working with you. You will remain in my thoughts and prayers long after my days among you has ended. 2) Nevertheless, this IS an ending. Beginning in September, I will no longer be available to perform pastoral functions in this church. Although some of you might be tempted to invite me to perform a wedding or baptism, to conduct a funeral, or lead worship, I must refuse such invitations because it is essential that the church move on to form a strong relationship with your next pastor, rather than looking backwards into the church's past. Since I will continue to live in the area, it is possible that we may see each other from time to time at stores or various events. But while I'll be happy to see you and to hear about your current life and family, I will not be willing to discuss matters pertaining to the life of the church. I am bound by the Ordained Minister's Code of Ethics (the code can be found on the UCC website: ucc.org) to not interfere with or intrude upon the ministry of my successor, even though my heart might tempt me otherwise. 3) Finally, I want to be clear about my reasons for retiring at this time. I had said on many occasions that I hoped to continue in parish ministry for at least another couple of years, so this is a change of plans that I didn't anticipate. My decision was not about money or about my position being made part-time. Instead, it was a decision about my understanding of Christ's Church and the nature of ministerial leadership. During my time here, I have tried to help this church restructure itself to faithfully move into a more vibrant future. The center-piece of my efforts involved designing a structure that would foster the spiritual growth of each member, and to hold each member accountable for their ongoing efforts to grow in faith and in daily discernment of God's will for their lives. I firmly believe that the lack of this kind of nurturing, non-judgmental spiritual accountability is the key reason why so many churches today are dying. Without it, no amount of money or members can revive them. Unfortunately, this center-piece of my efforts was seen as too radical and threatening a change for most members to embrace, and that proposal was quickly rejected. But in my eyes, no church can be faithful to its calling without a serious commitment to the ongoing spiritual formation of its members. Worship attendance, committee structures, buildings and bank accounts cannot replace the hard, inner work of spiritual growth by each participant in the life of the congregation. No matter where we are on life's journey, God invites us to keep moving toward Jesus! Therefore, as I reflected on my own deepest convictions, my skills and abilities, my age and personality, and the disposition of the congregation at this time, I began to sense that God might be calling me to a different path than the one I had planned. I no longer have the patience or energy for the endless series of unproductive meetings, the petty political struggles and unrealistic expectations of parish life. I am tired of trying to convince people that there is more to the Christian life than programmatic or organizational considerations that most people today already find boring and lifeless. I want to use my gifts to help people who are hungry and thirsty for a deeper drink of God's life-transforming love. I am no longer convinced that the local church is the best place to find such people. As a result, I have come to believe that God is calling me away from the parish and into a ministry of Spiritual Guidance for which I may be better suited. For 43 years, I have tried my best to guide institutional churches back to the spiritual roots that will allow them to thrive and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Sadly, I have found little enthusiasm for such an endeavor within the local church, but only a misguided preoccupation for preserving a church culture that has lost touch with its primary mission. Fortunately, God now, in my retirement years, seems to be guiding me into a new form of ministry that will offer me a better chance of working with people who are hungry for deeper spiritual nourishment. It is with a heavy heart that I retire with so many hopes and dreams for the church unfulfilled, but I cannot in good conscience continue to serve an organization that is so reluctant to embrace God's call to change. I feel I have nothing more to offer you as your pastor, and I need to step aside and let someone else take my place who does. May God bless you and prosper your life together in a community of faith that only Christ can create and sustain.                                     -- Duane