Two weeks ago the announcement was made that our pastor will be stepping down. It's a long story, but in the end, I think it all boils down to good things. No one's mad at anyone else, it's just time for him to spend more time with his family and be a layperson, while from the church's end it's time to more or less graduate from being a "church plant" and go wherever it is that God is taking us, with whomever he has in mind to take us there. The Good Pastor was a businessperson in a previous life, so it's not quite the dramatic change that it would be to a lifelong pastor-type...he's just going back to what he was doing before God called him to plant our church.
OK, but what I missed out on this week was the news that God seems to be calling The Good Pastor and his family far, far away for this next chapter of life. It seems a job offer came thru that he'd be flippin' nuts to turn down (apparently the company 'courted' him, and 'bent over backward' for him and all sorts of things that would make anyone want to say 'yes I'll move far, far away to work for you'), and to my knowledge there's really nothing holding him here. Extended family all live in other parts of the continent anyway, so that's that, and they're planning to leave in 2 months.
Personally, this is a bummer for me. I don't know The Good Pastor and his wife all that well, but I'm kinda buds with their daughters...we're all on the worship team together, so we goof off and plan apocalyptic/pyrotechnic worship sets and such. The second one, especially, I feel a sort of kindred-spirit vibe with. It's a bummer for them too, as they're both mid-high school. Ugh--that has to be the worst time thinkable to do a major move. What on earth is God thinking???
Oh, wait--he's God. We don't necessarily get to know that.
Given my own experiences though, I can attest to the fact that what seems flippin' nuts can, indeed, be exactly what is needed and beneficial. I hated (HATED) leaving home when the Cat Daddy went into the military...and it took me a long time to grieve and come to terms with my new life. I'm not saying I'm "all there," either (on any level), but most days when I take a look back all I can say to God is "you were right, I needed this; thank you."
So where some are reeling at this news, to me it is a familiar sadness. I've been the one leaving and I know how wrenching it is (every. single. time.), and I want to send them off well...for my own part to make sure they know what they've meant to my life and all that.
OH, and then there's this whole other side to the story...the rest of the church, those of us who will be 'left behind.' Bad expression. Those of us who will remain. Better. Being its own subculture (microcosm?), church has lots of quirky things that go on when a pastor leaves--transitions are tough in any aspect of life. Some tend to view "the pastor" as "the church," so when the pastor leaves they aren't quite sure how to carry on. So as a kneejerk response they might find another church (which is usually better than giving up on church altogether), which creates the unfortunate side effect of decreasing the church's size. Or maybe when the new guy comes in and can't help being different from the old pastor because he's not the old pastor, they don't like how the dynamics change, or that they change at all, so again, they look elsewhere. Same effect.
Our church is no exception. While people aren't exacly streaming out the nearest exit, there are those who are keeping their feelers out for whatever else might be out there, church-wise. We are in for an interesting summer and fall, I think.
It's only recently that I've been able to look at such topics with even a hint of objectivity. Usually change like this affects me deeply and personally. It doesn't usually occur to me that the same types of things can and do happen regularly in church life cycles. Instead, I panic. By now though, I've been in enough churches to see patterns and understand a little bit that that's exactly what happens all the time in church life cycles. For once, I'm not panicking. I think I've arrived on a higher plane of existence?
More likely it's due to the fact that, while we really like our church, the Cat Daddy and I don't have the history here that many families do. We weren't there for the early years of meeting in living rooms and doing porta-church in a school. And truth be told, soon enough we'll face leaving and moving onto wherever it is that we'll be going next. That's why we are sad, but it doesn't affect us as personally as it does others. It is a different perspective.
On the other hand, if the same situation were going on at our home church back in AZ, I'd be reeling, too. That's where my history is, and where I still have some semblance of roots and connection.
Anyway, I was already one down for having missed the big announcement Sunday, then later in the week I learned of some who are nosing around other churches, and even though I knew it was coming and was part of the normal dynamics of change, as soon as it touched my social circle, it did make me the slightest bit nervous (who, me??). I had my moment of "Holy crap, where have I been," to which I swiftly responded "Well, doofus, you've been taking care of a 5-month-old, and working part time, and you decided to attend the Church of St Mattress last week."
This is why support systems are good, be they friends, family, or professionals...or in my case some combination of all three. I could get all pious and say that in that moment I thought of Jesus, who is my eternal anchor, no matter how crazy things get. Not that he's not, but in that moment what I thought of was getting home to hug the Cat Daddy and His Highness, and be thankful that we are in our pack together.