One educational requirement for becoming a Fellowshipped UU minister is to have chaplain experience through the Clinical Pastoral Experience (CPE). And though mine happened long ago in the summer of 2003, I still remember the hardest lesson I learned from that time…it was the importance of saying goodbye. I would often end a pastoral visit with a patient with the words, ‘see you later.’ One day my supervisor asked, “How do you know you’ll see that person later? They might be discharged from the hospital before you visit again or worse, they may die before you return. It’s important with every visit to say ‘goodbye.’” And there were times during that summer that proved he was right – I didn’t always get to see someone later.
I think that is what’s really hard about endings, about farewells. We live with the hope that of course we’ll see each other again, and for much of the time and for most of us, that will be true, but sadly not for all. None of us have the promise of tomorrow as life and this pandemic continue to remind us. It’s also important for churches to have a good goodbye with their ministers because it helps the congregation to then have a good hello with incoming ministers. So, as hard as it is, this is my letter to you, dear First Church members and friends, to say goodbye. I can’t express how privileged I feel I’ve been to have served you as minister. That I have played a part in First Unitarian Universalist Church’s story for a while is an honor I will relish for a very long time; I will remember this chapter in my life with great joy.
You have given me so many gifts and a great deal to reflect upon in the coming year. In the shared ministry we’ve had, we have accomplished a great deal on many levels. We’ve started various affinity groups, some which continue to this day; strengthened the lay ministry program and been involved in numerous acts of social justice in the larger San Diego County. We’ve had some hard conversations among us including how to balance spiritual nourishment and social justice, about the languages spoken in the worship service, not only American Sign Language and Spanish, but also the language of reverence (like God, Spirit and more). We’ve engaged each other around our values and what it means to live them through our finances, our budget and our public witness.
What I’ll hold closest in my heart are the many, many conversations we’ve shared together over the years…the conversations that revealed our hearts to one another, the willingness to stay at the table in times of conflict and wanting to engage in the repair work that’s happening and will continue to happen. We have shared significant parts of our lives, of ourselves with each other, celebrating births and adoptions, mourning the death of family members, friends and congregants, celebrating love through weddings and anniversary parties, relishing a shared communal life together in sing-alongs, Winter holiday parties and rituals, and so much more. I will always be so very grateful.
I am proud to have been part of the ministry here at First UU Church and I know a new era of ministry is waiting to be born in and created among you. I’m hopeful for First Church’s future and will be cheering you on from the sidelines. I hope the work you’ll do in this time of transition will give you more clarity, vision and direction for this congregation to continue to make a lasting impact in this region…that you’ll become a more welcoming place to more people and live that welcome out in tangible ways. I look forward to hearing about the lives that will continue to be changed for the better because people have found in this congregation a brave space, a welcoming space, and a people who are invested in relationship building, and sharing this faith’s promise, that people will have found a spiritual home that truly lives it mission of creating community, nurturing spiritual growth and using your gifts to help heal the world. May it be so.
With faith, hope and love, and a good goodbye,
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