Pastor’s Perspective…Celebration & Grief

In my ministry at St. Paul’s, one of my favorite responsibilities is officiating memorial services.  It’s an odd thought.  I find the ability to meet people in their deepest moments of grief and help them experience their loved one’s life on earth and life beyond as a celebration of God’s grace is a beautiful gift and honor.  When I think about the upcoming changes in my family’s life, I feel a similarity to memorial services.  As we prepare to leave St. Paul’s after 14 years of ministry and head toward a new calling & adventure in Sahuarita with the people of Santa Cruz Valley UMC, I am experiencing great celebration and grief at the exact same time.

Yesterday was  my day to cry.  The flood gates opened and the river poured over my face.  It was the first time that I’ve felt deep distress over the realization that the people of St. Paul’s are not going to be an intimate part of my day to day life.  What a blessing that my grief is so very real.  What if I had worked someplace for 14 years and simply slipped away not feeling as if the people made a difference in my life?  As I think about Mark Conrad, the current pastor at Santa Cruz Valley UMC, I hope his grief is poignant  and real, too.  That means that the people of his church mattered to him.  St. Paul’s will mourn.  Santa Cruz Valley will mourn.  It means that our lives mattered to each other–there is no greater expression of our faith than to say that human beings have loved each other to the point of grief in their separation.

At the same time I want you to know that I fantasize about my first Sunday at Santa Cruz Valley.  What will I say? What will I wear?  Will I wear any makeup?  How will I dress the kids?  How early should I arrive?  How do I hold back all that I think it’s important that they know about me?  Can the service really be 2 hours long because I’m so excited to be in the front of a new church that I might just talk forever?  Wow.  It’s too much to think about!

I hope that as you consider changes in your life you will be able to fully mourn and fully celebrate all that God has offered you in the midst of transition.  God is present in our grief and joy, urging us forward to greatness!

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