One thing I rarely have experienced in my three decades of pastoral ministry is a sense of completion. Unlike a contractor who sees a completed home or an artist who holds a completed piece, I have rarely felt like I had finished a long-term task. I may have finished a pastoral visit or a Sunday sermon, but there were always more visits to make and sermons to write. The job of pastor, by its nature, was never finished.
So when I ended my thirteen month interim at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lindstrom last week, I was surprised that my dominant emotion has been a sense of satisfaction. I had accomplished the specific job I was called to do. I had been their temporary shepherd as they took time to grieve the departure of their previous senior pastor, to assess their present mission and leadership needs and to call a new senior pastor. Now they are ready as a congregation to walk forward into God’s future.
Yes, there are other emotions. I feel sadness at leaving some great relationships. As a pastor I shared in the joy of baptisms and the sorrows of funerals. Together we struggled how to faithfully steward a large bequest to the congregation. I truly enjoyed working with Trinity’s leadership of council and committees as together we sought God’s path for Trinity. I will miss many gracious people.
What my recent study and practice of mindfulness has taught me is that all things change. As a pastor I intellectually knew this, but never fully embraced it. All pastoral ministries come to an end. As an intentional interim pastor I recognized this from the start. I practiced “living one day at a time, enjoying each moment at time,” as the Serenity Prayer says. Some days I did become anxious, trying to control the outcome. But during my final weeks at Trinity, as they prepared for the arrival of their new pastor, I took time to be grateful for the opportunity to serve and to savor the satisfaction of my call’s completion.
At this time, I do not know where my next interim will be. I am reminded of Psalm 121,
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
For now, I rest during my personal interim.
When have you experienced a sense of completion? How did you respond to it?