Time is winding down as I close the curtain on my ministry here. I am now having to tackle some things that I thought I had another sixteen months or so to address, but life moves on. And as it moves on, and Linda and I make our way to our new home in Alabama, it is essential that this transition be not only smooth but also by one that is supportive as the church moves forward.
There are certain ethical guidelines that I am bound by my ordination to abide with during this time of departure. This ensures that the interim minister won’t have interference in his or her ministry and that the ongoing spiritual health of the congregation must be everyone’s primary concern. It is helpful when the minister leaves the area so as not to be tempted to interfere in church affairs. But there are some guarantees I can offer as to how I will approach this transition.
I will not try to influence the search and call process. I trust the process that is spelled out in the By-laws. I will not participate in either weddings or funerals once I leave or make any sort of pastoral calls or visits unless invited to do so by the current minister. Nor will I return to the church for a visit until after a year has elapsed from the time a new permanent minister is called. I have been here for thirteen years and have yet to return to my previous pastorate in Pensacola. It certainly doesn’t mean that I stopped loving the people there when I left, just like my love for you will continue over the years but our relationship will be different.
You will have a great minister because you are a great congregation. Now we still have some work to do before my last Sunday and I have a whole lot of packing to get started on. Retiring from full-time pastoral ministry means unloading some of my books. I will probably need to shed even more but there are some things that I have carried from church to church that need to find their way into the dumpster.
I am taking the rest of this week off to celebrate my granddaughter’s wedding in Tennessee, fortunate enough to officiate it. Once I return, I will have four Sundays remaining to be with you, and I will cherish those Sundays. Things are going to be all right!
See you the following Sunday!
Gary L. West