Monday I resigned as Lead Pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church. My last Sunday will be October 25, 2015. You can see my letter of resignation here.
The path to the decision was a long and winding one. (The twisting path was also a partial reason I have not posted on this blog for six months.) It was not made suddenly or without prayer and conversation. Though there have been many contributing factors, three key events shaped my decision.
The first was an eight-day silent centering prayer retreat in June. Though it was held at a non-descript wooded camp, the experience was life transforming. The silence time of prayer and reflection helped solidify my longing for contemplation and deep prayer. I had a couple of profound experiences that I need to write about in future posts. I want to go back.
The second was the five-day ELCA youth gathering in Detroit in July. Thirty thousand youth packed into Ford Field, praising, dancing, singing in the joyous, raucous Spirit of Christ. There were times when I felt like I was 17 years old again, swept up in the celebration. It was a powerful trip for me, the three adults, and ten youth from Resurrection.
Taken together, the silent prayer retreat and the youth gathering, could be seen as two ends of a spiritual spectrum. One end is the quiet, contemplative Spirit of God, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) The other is the joyous noisy Spirit of God, “You will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” (Jeremiah 31:4)
Both are good and healthy, but they rarely live together in the same tent.
The two are significant in that I see my own spirituality moving towards the quiet, contemplative end of the spectrum, while I see the needs of Resurrection’s spirituality is for the joyful dance. Neither is better than the other, but they were not working together within me, especially since I am called to be the leader. Thus for months my own spirit has been restless.
The third event was a private conversation with two trusted leaders of the congregation. They initiated the conversation in a caring environment. During the conversation they asked me was a simple, yet profound question, “Do you feel like you still fit at Resurrection?”
Like a skillful politician I hemmed and hawed and dodged the question that evening. But as I drove home from the conversation, I realized in my heart-of-hearts that I no longer fit. It was a blow to my ego. I wanted to be in control, yet I was not. I wrestled with the question all through that night and several afterwards. Yet I woke up each morning realizing that the answer was the same. It is time for me to leave Resurrection.
In the next couple of days, I will post on what my plans are for the future. For now it is sufficient to say that I am both sad to leave a fantastic congregation like Resurrection and at peace with listening to the call of God’s Spirit.
I have been reflecting on these words from Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak.
Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. (page 3)