“I Guess This Is Goodbye”
Okay. This snuck up on me. Well, I knew it was coming. I have known since last fall. Who knew that our last “in person” worship service would be our last for at least three months? There was the coronavirus. Then there was social injustice.
Next thing I know, I’m in a car parade to say goodbye to Pastor Steve and his wife Cindy. Wait. What?
It’s June already and they’re leaving! So many things got cancelled or postponed … I just thought … I mean … I knew it was coming. But, it’s here already? Wow!
So, Steve and Cindy are retiring. Hmmm. Let me think. What am I going to miss?
I’ll miss the way Steve would wander down the hall, stopping in some of the offices just to chat. He’d ask, “Here’s what’s happening. What do you think we need to do about this?” Every time he asked, I knew he’d already made up his mind. I knew he was simply checking to see how many staff would support him and who he would have to convince that his way was the “right” way. I knew it. But, I played the game anyway. Sharing my opinion. Listening to his reasons. Agreeing to support his decision, no matter how crazy.
It’s a part of his leadership I actually appreciated. He was proactive not reactive. And he genuinely did care what we thought. There were many nights I wrote in my Gratitude Journal, “Thank You God for Steve’s leadership”. That’s Steve.
Then there’s Cindy. We worked together several years in a row on the Ladies Day of Renewal. Since we tried to make it a full day in length, it took lots of work and far more attention to detail than my big picture brain can handle. Cindy took it all in stride. She was always thoughtful, prayerful and super creative. She could turn almost any situation into something to laugh about. She thoroughly enjoyed creating an experience that would deepen someone’s faith. She volunteered to do that! She was never paid for the hours she put into these events. Her countless hours of service are a treasure I still carry with me, as do the many women who attended these events or her Bible Studies. I cannot count the number of women who came into my office for counseling only to announce they had learned something new by attending Cindy’s Bible Study!
Steve and Cindy served Platte Woods United Methodist Church for 15 years. That’s a long time in Methodist years. Almost double what most senior pastors get to serve. This means that even when the parade is done and we’ve had the chance to drop off cards and wave goodbye, many of us will still experience grief. And that’s okay. Some will think, “It’s only the pastor and he only retired. Why am I so sad?” It’s still a change and we are programmed to grieve change. Even change we ask for and want like a marriage or a graduation. These are still changes. And we grieve. And it’s okay.
So, allow yourself your feelings. Since this really did sneak up on me, I will probably have to draw a picture saying goodbye. You know the kind. Stick figures and sunsets. Steve and Cindy will never see it. I’ve done this before when there’s a loss without a ceremony or a funeral I cannot attend. I say goodbye quietly and in my own way.
You might want to do the same. Allow yourself time to grieve. Once you do, the feelings pass.
We will all grieve. Some will be sad and struggle to embrace the new pastors. Others will find themselves angry or irritated with any little new change that happens in the next few months. It’s okay. We all understand. In the midst of so many other changes going on around us, this is one more big change.
We will do our best to welcome pastors Yvi Martin and Choongho Kwon. We will welcome them even though Steve and Cindy have left huge holes in our hearts.
Steve and Cindy, we wish you well. I guess this is goodbye.
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.