|Rev. Bert (center) with niece Rebecca (left) and cousin Michele (right)|
The Rev. Dr. Mark D. Morrison-Reed gave the 180th Berry Street Lecture in the year 2000, two years before I came to be your minister. In it, he said (and I agree):
“The power of community is enormous, and I have lived my entire life in its embrace. It is why I entered the ministry. I believe the liberal church is worth devoting a life to – my life, in fact.
“My years as a congregant did not prepare me, however, for a cruel irony. Ministry… is a source of unrequited grief. I regret having not read the fine print. If I had, perhaps I would have made another choice. But the print was very small, the phrasing paradoxical, while I was young and eager. This is what it said:
‘You will love your parishioners with all your heart but never befriend them. You will pour out your lifeblood for the community but never settle there. You shall die to the congregation so that the ministry might live.’”
I think the first two sentences of the fine print are obvious. The last one, not so much, perhaps. The truth is, that for your ministry to bond with another minister, it is important that our relationship not continue. As long as you think of me as “our minister,” then it will be harder for any other minister to serve you here. The rules are meant to protect us all, and I intend to follow them.
I think this will be made somewhat easier for us as I will be living thousands of miles away. But I know that social media crosses the distance. Please know that when I don’t respond to you, it is in service to our greater purpose, a greater love. You are always welcome to the UU Church of Vancouver, WA should you find yourself in the Portland area. (You will laugh in recognition when you see their inadequate building and have to decide whether to attend at 9:30 or 11:15.) We may see each other at a General Assembly in the future (it will be in Spokane, WA in 2019!) or otherwise run into each other in these very small UU circles. But that will be the extent of our relationship in the future, as you embrace another minister in Lansing and I embrace another congregation in Vancouver.
It is a cruel irony that ministry is all about relationship, and yet we have to end our relationship in order to continue the ministry. Please know how much I admire and respect you, how much I love you, and that I will carry you in my heart always. You are the congregation that shaped me as a minister, and I remain forever grateful to your ministry to me.
And to paraphrase Monty Python, “I’m not gone yet!” Please join me any Sunday through June 18 and for farewell gatherings following worship. Saturday, June 17, Grounds Planning is throwing a party for Stuart (my husband), and I will be there also. Please come say goodbye. I will miss you.