Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Final Day Looms

January 27 is my last day in the pulpit before retiring as rector, just a few weeks away, and a full year since I gave notice to the congregation. For some reason I'm finding these last few weeks to be filled with apprehension, or perhaps it would be better said anxious anticipation. If anything, it reminds me of that long lost anxious waiting for Christmas morning that I had as a very young boy. I will leave the congregation in good financial health with a pattern of slow membership growth and an outstanding reputation for adult Christian education. Although not an especially large church, our commitment to outreach has meant that we generate financial gifts to those in need equal to about a third of our operating budget. We endured the upheaval over the gay issue with few leaving, more coming, and an atmosphere that is comfortable for both conservatives and liberals. I think the parish needs improvement in its ministry to families with children, although we've made huge strides in the last two or three years. Our Sunday School and youth programs are solid but limited in their appeal and they also need a little work. Most of all, I have not done well at inculcating the discipline of holy stewardship among the large middle segment of the parish. We have a few people of extraordinarily modest means who give sacrificially to the work of the parish, and another handful of wealthy families who give with real generosity. But in the middle are far too many who treat stewardship as if it was the same thing as paying dues to the YMCA or country club - with both of those taking priority. I inherited a parish in good shape and am leaving it in better shape but with more to be done. Maybe that's the best way.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Holy Stewardship - why is it the hardest lesson of all? We who have so much should be more than willing to give God a share of that....particularly in the light of seeing those who have so little, contributing beyond their means.

It sounds as though you've contributed your time and talents to develop a healthy place of worship for many people. Prayers from you and from your congregation might be that their continued presence and support will include responsible stewardship of their personal treasure as well as their time and talent.

May God continue to bless you in whatever the future holds.

lucy said...

"looming"??? curious word. does the final day feel threatening & dangerous? i say curious, because the post sounds well considered both with pro's and con's.

sorry for the hint of potential psychobabble :-)

i also wonder if the middle people stay in the middle in most areas of their lives???

retirement...you're gonna love it!! just ask someone very near and dear to you :-)

Country Parson said...

Dear Lucy,
I suppose there is something a little threatening but it has more to do with the days between now and then than after retirement. Trying to wind-up, wind-down, remove books, shred files and staying out of planing for anything beyond two weeks is such a wrenching change of practice. I could use a Harry Potter wand or spell to just "poof" everything to a neat and tidy close. However, I hasten to add that its mostly a psychological inconvenience and not a cause for worry.

Wren said...

I predict that, despite your concerns, your closure will be carried out with your usual style and grace, which is admired and appreciated by all.

You've raised the level of consciousness during a time when the trend was downward. I applaud you, and will miss you.

SUNRISE SISTER said...

What a lovely and thoughtful note from WREN - obviously someone who knows you and your work.