Reflections on Leaving – Part 5: Grief

The work of ministry is intimate work. We walk alongside people during key moments in their life. We are conversation partners, shoulders to cry on, and receivers of anger, disappointment and pain. We are also hearers of joy, a new baby born, good news from the doctor, weddings, a deeper sense of God’s presence, an “aha” moment in their life of faith. The curing of souls takes this kind of intentional closeness for it to help people grow in God’s grace.

Title and position does not guarantee our role. Curing of souls takes relationship, trust, it takes time. You quickly learn the boundaries when first arriving in a place. Some aspects of our work are given to us from the beginning, others we earn with our witness, attention, and intention.

When we have become the curer of souls for those given to our care it makes it difficult to leave. The excitement of new beginnings quickly gives way to the sadness of departing. Deep work has been done, companioning has taken place, stories have been shared. We become the hearer of stories, we have had the great honor of pointing where God has been at work in people’s lives.

The congregation itself has given of themselves to us. We too have been ministered to by them in deep and meaningful ways. In sharing their life with us they also shared with us the gift of friendship and companioning. We learned the rhythms of life in this community and although it took us time we learned to appreciate its slow pace and easy going attitudes. During difficult times, God’s people in this place supported us and reminded us of God’s love daily. God was truly present in surprising ways in these people, a people that became “the church” to me and to my family.

A wise friend and mentor told me to leave room in my heart and soul for grief. Much joy and growth has happened here, relationships have been built, ministry has been done, God has been present. You can’t just walk away from all of that without pause.

As I continue packing I realize how hard it will be to say goodbye. It hit me at Easter that it would be our last Easter together. Now there is a real countdown, just three Sundays left. Three more opportunities to gather this community around table, three more times to tell them the story of faith, three more chances to welcome them into God’s place in the name of Jesus.

No matter how exciting the journey ahead, leaving is difficult work. Letting go, moving on, real leaving requires walking through the valley of the shadow . . . I am thankful that God walks alongside us through these important times!

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