I mark time by relationships. I don’t remember events by the year they happened. I remember them by who was with me and the feelings that accompany the event. This is particularly true at work. I have worked at the same church for 13 years. For the years I have been there, I have had to say good-bye to 5 pastors, 7 program staff, 9 members of our office staff and 3 seminary interns. Even though we have a large staff for a church, we are cohesive and work well together. We meet regularly and play together frequently. It is hard to say good-bye. Each time someone leaves, I reflect on all the people I have worked with and have supported me as a colleague at Faith.
· I remember not only the past music director and pastor but the camp we created and ran for three years. It
was one of my first collaborative efforts in ministry and I learned a lot from them.
· I think about one of our youth directors and the mission trip I chaperoned with her. The experience of
that trip impacted me personally as it changed the way I interact with and think about the “invisible”people in our communities.
· And I am reminded of each of the pastors every time I open my desk drawer and see all the notes I took as I
listened to their sermons on Sunday morning. I can still hear each of their voices as I read their words in my own scribbled handwriting. Their words still ring true.
But with endings come new beginnings. For the same amount of people who have left, we have welcomed new colleagues that bring their own unique set of gifts to our staff and our church. I can’t imagine my own professional life without many of them. I have grown and been challenged in ways that I know would not have happened if they had not joined our staff. I have had so many important relationships to mark time.
I am smart enough to know that running a restaurant would be hard work. (I have seen the show Restaurant Impossible!) But beginnings and endings in the form of food would be much simpler for me to deal with than the complex emotions that come from changes in relationships. If you know about church life, you know that important and deep conversations happen there. Discussions literally about life and death. As professional leaders in the church, we have these discussions all the time. Many times they move from the professional slant like how I can help children understand God’s grace to the very personal of my coworker sharing God’s grace in my own life. It is an amazing and humbling thing when a relationship moves to one of such profound trust that people can wonder together about these life and death questions in such a personal way.
That is why it is so hard to say good-bye! Knowing that, I wouldn’t change what I do or where I work. As each new staff member is welcomed, I am reminded that God will be at work in this relationship too – in the beginning and in the ending.