I just did the math. It’s been 85 days since we’ve become a pastoral family “in transition”. 85 days since our last day at our church. That’s almost 3 months. Here are few reflections from my perspective as a pastor’s wife re: resignation, leaving and being in transition:
- After my husband resigned from our church, he received phone calls and e-mails and coffee dates from colleagues who were all interested in seeing how he’s doing. He even had a coffee date with a pastor in our area who is from a different denomination. As a result, he felt very supported. During that same time-period, I was attempting to process everything. But no one called to see how I was doing. This was a wake-up call for me. Of course, it’s natural for my husband to be more connected to his colleagues than I am to other spouses of a pastor. Part of his job has included denominational networking and he’s been part of an interdenominational pastoral group in our town. While I was previously aware that there’s not the same networking for spouses of pastors, this reality really hit home when we entered into transition and I was processing our new reality alone.
- In the weeks leading up to our last Sunday, we as a couple were committed to, “leaving well by loving well”. For me, I found it rather therapeutic to write encouraging cards to congregation members and to give a speech on our last Sunday at the church.
- Some days or moments, I’m able to soak up this “in transition” status. There is significantly less stress and more family time. We actually go to church together as a family! That’s been so nice.
- At other days or moments, I’m feeling impatient. Searching for a church can be a long process. I feel lost without a church family. I want to know people at a church and be known. I desire to serve. I describe us as being “an island” at this time. Not fun.
- A retired pastor said to me, “leaving a church is a loss no matter the reason”. He’s right. Some days or moments, I miss our old church family so badly that my heart aches. We’ve created appropriate space between us + them during these early transition days. But I think about them. I pray for them. I don’t love them any less now that we are gone.
If you recall anything from these ramblings, I hope it would be this: Remember the pastor’s spouse during a season of pastoral transition. Remember that their life has changed in a big way, too. They could be experiencing relief or grief or anything in between. They are likely feeling very alone. Do ask how they are doing and offer support in the best way that you know how.
(We’ve been asked by some people what “in transition” means. In the Canadian Free Methodist Church, pastors are first approved for ministerial service by the denomination. Then, they are eligible to be interviewed and hired by a local church Board. That employee-employer relationship is then formalized by the Bishop officially placing the pastor under appointment at the particular location. For those familiar with the terms ‘episcopal’ and ‘congregational’ when describing church governance, the Canadian Free Methodist Church is a bit of both. In a nutshell, then, “transition” is the season between when a pastor resigns from one appointment and begins another appointment.)
6 years ago, we packed up all of our belongings and moved from the US to Canada. We moved to a small town that we never visited before the job interview at the church. To say that it was a step of faith is an understatement. More like a leap of faith. We left behind all that was familiar for the unfamiliar. We trusted that I’d eventually find a job. We said good-bye to good friends and family. We went knowing that staying wasn’t our next step. No, our next step was to go.
Now, after 6 years have passed by, we sense that our season at this church has come to an end. Truthfully, this conclusion took us both by surprise (and involved a lot of wrestling). We like longevity and thought we’d be here longer. But then I thought that I’d live in the States forever and here we are in Canada.
Sometimes we think that we’ll always do this or that…until we don’t. We can think that we’ll always live in a certain place, always work a certain job, always have certain friends, always think a certain way…til we no longer do. Thankfully, change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Often, the unexpected changes in life can produce in us new fruit.
Our recent church will always hold a special place in our hearts. We’ve loved, we’ve learned, we are better people now than we were 6 years ago. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Now a new season is upon us. It’s scary and exciting. It feels a bit like 6 yrs ago. Except this time, we have evidence to recall of God’s faithfulness. He was with us then. He’s still with us now.
Here’s to being in transition. Come what may.
With this Sunday being our last at our church (of 6 years), people have been asking me how I’m doing. The best way that I can describe it is…it reminds me of what it felt like to graduate from my beloved college. The years were special. Amazing friendships. Spiritual and personal growth. There were hard times but lots of good times. Life felt full due to living in community. But it had to come to an end eventually. You’re thankful for what was…sad that it’s over…and a little anxious with all the unknown that is ahead.
While that’s the best analogy that I can offer for how I’m feeling now as a season of life & ministry comes to an end, it also falls short. You see, after graduating from Roberts, I could go back to visit at anytime. It didn’t affect my friendships. Leaving a church (for whatever reason – even for those who retire) is different. I can’t go back. It would be considered bad practice if I walked in the church doors on a Sunday in the next year (or more). The finality of it all chokes me up in ways that my college graduation didn’t.
So to be honest, with our last Sunday quickly approaching…I’m either keeping myself busy by helping my husband tie up loose ends or feeling the weight of it all (sad). Leaving a church is a form of loss for every pastor and their family, even when it was their decision to do so.
Maybe it’s a good thing that I feel sadness as we lead up to our last Sunday. Maybe my emotions confirm what I say with my mouth: I’m grateful for the past 6 yrs at our church and will never forget it. And maybe my emotions are showing me just how deeply I have loved this community of people (lump in throat). Okay, so on that note, I’m going to have a little cry…
Wish us luck for Sunday!