My husband Chris and I watch as our pastor cups his hand into the basin and begins to pour water on our son’s forehead. This is a sacred sacrament, our firstborn’s baptism.
Two years later, another pastor is the only other person with me in the emergency room as I lean over to kiss Chris’ cold lips and view his dead body. He literally holds me up as he prays and waits with me for my mom to arrive.
I seek refuge in my pastor’s office during multiple situations throughout my lifetime: when motherhood overwhelms me, after my father’s death and when a loved one is on life-support due to his addiction to alcohol.
Laughter comes out of that office too, as stories are shared with different pastors that come and go over the years and I get to know them as ordinary people doing God’s work.
Our pastors support us during life’s highs and lows. They give us spiritual guidance and help us explore and nurture our faith. They perform marriages and baptisms and give us Holy Communion. They walk with us through our losses, helping us cope and finding ways to heal.
There is sacredness in what they do – the raw emotion that we share with them creates a powerful bond.
So when they are “called” to serve in another place, or retire, or take on a new role within the church, it can often feel overwhelming and there is a sense of loss.
That is how it felt last week when I read a letter that the members of my church received informing us that our senior pastor has accepted a new call.
I hear a lot of responses to the unexpected news, such as “I thought he said he would retire from our church, but he’s not retiring!” My mother said, “I wish he would be here to conduct my funeral someday.” “Maybe if we could have paid him more, he wouldn’t have to leave.” Or, “Hopefully his gifts will be used in his new church and that will be good for both.”
When I listen to responses from the news, I hear DENIAL, ANGER, BARGAINING, DEPRESSION, ACCEPTANCE.
Isn’t it interesting that when you peel away the layers of emotion that result from a change, you wind up finding GRIEF?
GRIEF – the universal response to LOSS.