Sometimes the relationship between a pastor and a congregation is referred to in terms of marriage. Certainly, there’s the dating stage (for an early version of this, check out Samuel doing the cattle call with Jesse’s boys! – 1 Sam 15:34 – 16:13). Then there’s the wedding, followed by the honeymoon period.
Then there’s life. Hills and rocks, deaths and births. Life.
But here’s where the analogy fails for me. I’m leaving my congregation of 15 years, but it’s not a divorce (nor have I been cheating on them with the National Capital Presbytery!). Nor is it a trial separation. It certainly isn’t a death (I still have a pulse, and contrary to some, so does this small church!).
Allow me to suggest another analogy.
About 15 years ago, we met each other on the trail. For a good long time we shared meals and experiences. I was good at campfires, the church was good at setting up tent and making it feel like home. We walked companionably together. It has been good.
And now? Now my path leads in another direction. We will hug these next few weeks, and take the time to convey just how much we have appreciated one another, but after a bit, I’ll take down my tent and take the fork in the road.
I am forever changed by this congregation. They helped me to understand what it meant to be bearers of the light.
You see, everywhere I’ve gone over the last 15 years I’ve told folks that I had the pleasure of being the Pastor of the first church in the world to be lit by electricity! I couldn’t stop there. I’d have to continue by telling folks what an incredibly quirky and lovely group I served with, and how wonderfully they bore the light. You see, Edison had it right when he hung his Electrolier at First Pres Roselle. These folks know what it means to bear the light – and to shine.
I’ll miss this church. I know some are panicking and some are angry. Some are grieving and some will never be able to forgive me. I think, in part it is because they fear I’m leaving them in the dark.
But that could never be. For they are bearers of the light.
It may feel impossible for them at times. They may do a quick inventory (like Wesley in the Princess Bride when they are trying to stop the wedding) and realize that they are missing a vital element. But someone in this congregation will have what they need. And, if they are able to share that gift, then all will be blessed.
This incredible community of Misfit Toys will continue to bear the light – not because it is something they are supposed to do as a church, but it is because of who they are. They are bearers of light in a world that so needs to see the light – and as I go my own way, I will try to bear the light as well.
The quintessential end to many a sitcom is someone staring around the room for the last time, and being the last one out, they turn off the light and lock the door. That is not the future for the Roselle church. Show up on a Sunday, the light will be on. Show up on a Tuesday evening, and the light will be on (and dinner for guests will be on the stove). Show up early in the morning, and the light will be on, and teachers will be welcoming students.
For they are bearers of the Light – and for them, I am ever-grateful.