Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Harder Than I Thought

I am a United Methodist clergyperson, an ordained Elder in our denominational parlance. One of the distinguishing features of United Methodist Elders is that we itinerate, that is we are sent forth by our Bishop to our places of pastoral ministry. It's not as arbitrary as it sounds, for there are procedural safeguards and a process called "consultation," in which church profiles and pastoral profiles are considered, prayerfully and thoughtfully processed before an "appointment" in made. Once the pastor and the church in question agree with the Bishop's intended appointment, an announcement is made and it remains a potentiality until what we call "Annual Conference," a yearly gathering of United Methodist lay and clergy from across the "conference" (in our case the state of Minnesota). It is at Annual Conference that our Bishop "fixes" the appointments, at which time it becomes "official."

I am at our Annual Conference gathering in St. Cloud, Minnesota, this week, although my stay here will be cut short by a court appearance involving two of our sons on Thursday. In fact, I will not be present when the Bishop makes her official "reading of the appointments" and distributes her pastoral letter (a one-page missive in which the pastor is directed as to what are the missional priorities of the congregation to which the pastor is being appointed). I have a pretty good idea, however, of what the expectations of our episcopal leader might be, and I will be sure to receive the letter at some point in the near future.

Tonight I finished my final liturgy and emailed it to our church secretary and powerpoint artisan. I knew it would be difficult for me to compose the "last" liturgy, but I guess I underestimated my sense of emotional resilience. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I hit the "send" button on the liturgy, realizing it would be the final time I will do that for the church I have served the past seven years. The final time after seven years, during which time I have created a weekly liturgy well over 325 times. After 325 times you'd think it would be rote. But it's not really time number three-hundred-whatever tonight. Tonight it is the last time.

And it's harder than I thought it would be.