Dear St. John’s,
As this Sunday moves toward evening, I pause to reflect about today and the progression of discernment leading to it. While none of this happened in the way any of us would have preferred, how can anyone complain as the world struggles through so much? I am deeply moved by the host of folks who participated in my last Zoom Communion, who joined from all over. The slideshow in the worship experience gave me all the feels, too.
I’m so grateful for my time among you as I stand down from my second tour. Twice I’ve been appointed to you. Who gets to do that? And now as I take my leave I share with you the covenant I’ve entered into at the behest of the Bishop’s office and under the guidance of a consultant, in connection with our Superintendent, the SPRC and your new pastor, Rev’d Judi Hoffman:
As clergy in covenant with one another, and in the best interests of the church, I covenant to follow these guidelines as the pastoral transition takes place:
1. I will make no disparaging remarks about the work or lifestyle of my successor, Rev’d Judi Hoffman.
2. Perform no pastoral duties at St. John’s, except at the request and under the direction of Rev’d Hoffman.
3. I will continue to serve as leader of THE WAY, as The Way Advisory Board lives under consultation to determine future leadership. I will not be present in the St. John’s building except when THE WAY band records music once a month. If unacceptable, I will find an alternate space for the band to record. Beyond that, my presence will be limited to the online version of THE WAY. Once new leadership is secured, I will transition out of that relationship.
4. Upon leaving St. John’s, I will sever pastoral relationships with the congregation, recognizing that all future weddings, baptisms, counseling sessions, visitations, and funerals will be fulfilled by the currently appointed clergy at St. John’s, unless an unusual situation exists and is approved by Rev’d Hoffman. When receiving a request from a former parishioner, I will always refer them, without comment, to the Rev’d Hoffman. I can only participate in a church event if invited by her.
5. I will find a different church to place my charge conference relationship. Once determined and agreed upon by that church, I will notify the District Superintendent. After an appropriate season, should there be a desire to place my charge conference at St. John’s, I will inquire of the pastor in charge and SPRC to assess if appropriate.
6. I will not speak to St. John’s congregants about any issue at St. John’s.
7. I have a handful of personal relationships at St. John’s that have been life-giving to me in the last few years. I intend to continue those friendships. Beyond that, I will distance myself from the membership of St. John’s as directed by the covenant.
8. I will publicly communicate the sum of these clauses before leaving.
And with this blog post, I satisfy the last clause. I release you, my St. John’s family, as my parish over which I am responsible, I ask you to release me as your pastor. Now don’t get me wrong, if in the course of our travels we run into each other (I guess once we can do that again), I’m going to want to hug you, hear about your lives, see pics of growing kids and discuss all things Memphis Tigers, I just won’t engage you on what’s happening at St. John’s. And I know that at times that will be a challenge. As I’ve said recently, I love St. John’s and The Way enough to leave it so that it came become what it’s called to be in this next chapter of its life.
Judi is an effective leader with a pastor’s heart. She will guide you well through the days ahead. She will challenge and inspire you in ways I couldn’t or didn’t. I’m thrilled she is your pastor now and that at long last St. John’s pastor in charge is a woman. It’s long overdue. That I’ve known her for over 30 years as we once travelled the halls of Vanderbilt Divinity School together is a full circle feeling for me.
There is no way I can capture the whole of my time with you in this short blog post, any more than I could sum up things in final sermon today. As I’ve looked back on it, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been preaching my last sermon for the last six weeks or so, with today being the period.
With that, I sign off hopeful for your future and humbled to be part of your story.
Bless you my friends. And the Peace of Christ always be with you.