The title of today’s e-news is the title of a book about people who leave the church.  I doubt whether I will make that comprehensive a break, but this is the end of an era where I have been a minister in a parish.  Specifically, in this instance, a minister in this parish.

Of course, like all good things you let go of, I probably won’t realise exactly what I have done until a few months down the track – perhaps when I feel a strange urge to write something on a Friday afternoon, or when I wonder what to do on Sunday morning!

The ministry system is a strange one.  You and I meet and engage – and it is better when we really, really engage with each other – you could say intensely, or intimately, certainly intentionally.    Then, whatever the minister moves on to, there is the need to disengage on both sides.

Of course, we will carry each other in our hearts – to whatever degree we need or want to.  That heart connection will not be broken.  Years after leaving other parishes, I am still interested in what they are doing or being and former church members when we meet ask what I am up to now.

But physically, geographically, and from a communication point of view, the disengagement needs to be pretty complete.  That gives you a chance to become a different version of yourselves, no longer the church with Susan Jones as the minister, but a new normal. And that gap, while it seems like a long time and hard to take, (I know, I have lived through interim times too), that gap means that when a new minister arrives, there is an open space for them to move into and where a new, different engagement can happen.  It’s a little like a marriage.  In a new marriage it is good if the ‘ex’ isn’t still hanging around!

Duncan Jameson once said after his year as PCANZ Moderator when he was succeeded by John Murray.  “One year you are top of the hill and the next you are just a feather duster!”  I am beginning to know what he meant.  I’m reminded of John the Baptist’s comment about Jesus’ advent.  “I must decrease so he can increase.”  I move away so another can come. 

I hear that this has been a shock to people (I look younger than I am).  Like the Carpenter in the fable of The Carpenter and the Unbuilder, we had settled into a comfortable house and liked where we were.  Thank you for the compliment, but there is a journey to be taken for both of us and our paths are diverging now.

Winne the Pooh has it right.  If I hadn’t liked being here so much, I would not be sad to go.  There are many good memories of people and events: pink food at Pink Shirt day, Harvest Café with everyone’s fairy lights, the St Andrew’s banner at the Climate Change march, the solemnity of Good Friday’s meditations, the joy of Pride Festival services, the privilege of presenting verbal submissions in person at Parliament, the beauty of the church itself, working with great support staff, the willing help given by so many every Sunday as well as during the week, those who voluntarily work so hard on Council and committees, the special moments when someone trust you with their inner thoughts and feelings, the humbling moments when you can see the sacred affecting people’s lives.

It has all been rich gift.  Thank you very much.

I think you all know what’s happening on Sunday.  See you there.  Susan

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