This is the letter I just emailed to the Southminster congregation today.
To my Southminster family,
It is with a full heart that I tell you I have just been called to be the pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco today. I am both excited about this new call and heartbroken at the prospect of leaving you.
I know this is how pastoral relationships work. Pastors are called to congregations, and we all become integral to each other’s lives, and then God calls pastors to other congregations, and the rending of the relationship feels like heartbreak. Because it is.
David Whyte, whose book I read through in my morning meditation videos this spring, describes heartbreak like this:
“Heartbreak is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight. Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot….. If heartbreak is inevitable and inescapable, it might be asking us to look for it and make friends with it, to see it as our constant and instructive companion, and perhaps, in the depth of its impact as well as in its hindsight, and even, its own reward. Heartbreak asks us not to look for an alternative path, because there is no alternative path. It is an introduction to what we love and have loved, an inescapable and often beautiful question, something and someone that has been with us all along, asking us to be ready for the ultimate letting go.”
It is time for our “letting go”.
I was called as your Pastor in June 2008. I am so thankful for each of those twelve years. It feels like almost no time has passed since I arrived, and also as if a lifetime has been lived together.
You have loved me and my family well, and for that I am eternally grateful. Elliott was 9 and Alden was 12, when we showed up. And you helped us raise them well. It was always our hope they would develop meaningful relationships with adults who weren’t related to them. Mission accomplished. Thank you for the way you cared for my family.
Justin has commitments with his job that will keep him in Boise for the time being, and we will be commuting between two homes, so you may see him around town.
I have attempted to show up, listen, wait, and lead. I have tried to inspire Elders to dream dreams and cast vision. I have tried to equip Deacons to offer a ministry of compassion and care. I have followed your wisdom when you sent me to visit, invited me to pray, or allowed me to serve. I have gathered and felt your feedback, and it has changed me, has made me smoother and softer in some places, and stronger and more passionate in others.
You have been supportive, encouraging, curious, and grace-filled as we discerned and pursued our shared mission and vision through these years. I’m so grateful for you, for your tenacious spirit of mutual forbearance, deep hospitality, and commitment to sharing God’s radical welcome with the world. I’m forever grateful for our time together.
I apologize for any way I have hurt any of you. I trust God’s forgiveness, but ask yours for any ways I led you too forcefully or not clearly enough, or spoke too quickly or not carefully enough. I trust God will bring you new leaders and new voices that this congregation and community can hear and support. I trust you will continue to hold onto one another and continue your journey extending God’s welcome. I hope you will listen carefully for the voices at the margins of this church and community, and continue to give your time, effort, and resources to serve them as siblings, as God’s family.
I hope some who left or found themselves unable to worship and serve through this congregation while I have been you pastor will find their way back into these halls, and will be welcomed home with open arms and hearts, with grace and forgiveness.
The Session has called a Congregational meeting for July 11, during worship, where the call between us as pastor and congregation will be dissolved, and we will bless one another as we move to the next chapters in our lives. I will lead worship and preach with you 4 more weeks. My last day as your pastor will be July 11.
Leaving you in the midst of this pandemic adds another layer of grief. We will have to be imaginative about new ways to say goodbye and mark this transition.
In the remaining weeks together, I will listen, and will do what I can to set you up through and beyond this transition. I look forward to every moment we have left with hope and love for you all. Thank you for breaking my heart— breaking it open wide enough to receive the gift of your love, which has given me a foretaste of God’s mercy and grace.
I will be moving to San Francisco in early August, and my first day in worship at Calvary will be August 16. I am so thankful for the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) and their faithful work, and I look forward to this new chapter. But first I have some goodbyes to say. I will forever be grateful to Southminster’s PNC of 2008 that took a chance on a rookie pastor, and I am so thankful for the twelve years I’ve had at Southminster.
I don’t have a lot of photos with Calvary people yet, because the worship service and congregational meeting were both online. Here are a few pictures of the other pastoral staff with me after we recorded the service yesterday.