A few weeks ago our pastor told us that she had decided it was time to move on, with her already retired husband, and enjoy their children and grandchildren. Until two years ago, her husband had been our co-pastor and therefore, we were somewhat cognizant of the fact that with his retirement hers was not far behind. And it wasn’t.
Sunday was her last day with us. THE END!
According to the polity of the Presbyterian Church, we may have contact her via email and U.S. mail but she may not respond to us. This restriction is in place for three years and to protect all parties, allowing our new pastor to shepherd us, not our former pastor.
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? The woman with whom I’ve shared my very soul, and now I can’t connect any more.
But as I listened to our Director of Children’s Ministries present the Children’s Sermon today, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
Sarah spoke to the children about beginnings and endings. She noted that not a one of them had been at our church when Pastor Mary first arrived there, but they were all there for Mary’s last day with us. As Sarah talked about Mary’s involvement in their lives — being witness to their first days on earth, their first steps down the aisle, their first day in Sunday School, their learning their ABCs and numbers, and their first lost tooth, I felt this sudden overwhelming sense of Mary’s presence in all our lives whether we were there at the beginning, the middle or the ending of her tenure at our church home.
You see, as Sarah explained, Mary had been there for some firsts and some lasts. Ironically, on Friday Mary held a memorial service for one of the first members to join our church after Mary’s arrival. A 43-year old wife and mother died suddenly last Monday of a serious stroke. Not her first. She had a stroke ten years ago when her twin sons were just approaching their second birthday.
Mary and Nicole had shared much in their time as friends and as pastor and congregant. And together they had beginnings and endings. A full circle, as Sarah showed the children.
With a circle, there is no beginning and ending. It is continuous.
That’s what we, the family of God worshiping together in one place represent — a circle of continuous faith, hope and love.
Have you experienced beginnings and endings? How did you feel? And what about that circle in which there are no beginnings and endings? Have you experienced that?