Thoughts From Your Regional Minister
By: Ken Marston
Published in the January issue of the Kansas Messenger
Endings and Beginnings. Two experiences that we all have throughout our lives. How we navigate these experiences can determine whether these are good positive events, or if they are negative events that strain the relationships in our lives.
A good ending often involves how we say goodbye to what we are losing in the end. At the death of a loved one, a funeral service is a ritualized way to say “goodbye.” Graduation ceremonies help us celebrate our journey and say goodbye to one part of our lives and embrace the future we are entering. In the life of the church, saying goodbye to a minister who has helped to nurture our lives is important.
The giving of gifts and the sharing of memories are important acts of saying goodbye. Worship liturgies and spoken words recognize and define how the relationship between minister and congregation is changing helps both ministers and congregations to let go of what was and embrace what is to come. When we do this well, saying goodbye helps to heal hurts and instill positive memories.
Good beginnings are just as important. How we welcome a new experience, or a new minster can either launch us towards life and joy or imprison us in the past. Welcome gifts, intentional storytelling about the congregation, listening to your new pastor’s faith journey, and helping your pastor’s family develop relationships and find their place in the life of the church are all important welcoming activities.
However, the most important welcoming activity is to resist asking your former minister to return to officiate at important life transition events like weddings and funerals. When former pastors are asked to return to officiate at these important events, it is the equivalent of slapping your current pastor in face while saying to them that they are not welcomed.
Make no mistake, good farewells and good welcomes can make or break the future. I pray that we will choose the path of good farewells and good welcomes that leads to new life.