“The Long Goodbye” ended yesterday. After more than fifteen years serving one congregation, the people of Mt. Calvary invited me back for one last service of celebration and a luncheon in my honor. The service included an incredible sermon by The Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry, president of Concordia University — Wisconsin, Elders’ Blessings, and a Farewell and Godspeed. The reception included a Milwaukee Brewers and Green Packers themed luncheon. There was tail gate type food, bobble heads on all the tables, kind words from various speakers, greetings too many to mention, and the extremely thoughtful gift of the Spanish version of Rosetta Stone software, because I’m headed to a place where that just might come in handy.
But the congregation to which I am now former pastor, did much more than just love me on my last day. They loved me throughout my fifteen years in that place. Here are ten of the ways:
- Early in my tenure they sent me to Israel for eighteen days. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. The memories and things I learned were almost beyond comprehension.
- My family and I were remembered each Christmas with generous words and generous gifts. Our holidays were always made special by the people of Mt. Calvary.
- The Elders always cared for me as a person, not just as a pastor. These men were genuine in their concern. The chair of the board often took me out for lunch “just because.”
- When I had an emergency appendectomy, members prayed and provided unique ways to pass the time. I remember being given a homemade CD with some “get well” music on it.
- To express her love, one member would occasionally leave brownies for me after church on Sunday mornings. Yum!
- They followed along even at some of the darkest hours. When a massive (for us) building project seemed dead in the water, they came with me as I did all I knew to do: move forward.
- Though I may not have always deserved it, they complimented me amongst the church-at-large and in the community. It’s like complimenting one’s child right in front of her. It is a “self fulfilling prophecy.” People love to be told they are doing well.
- Tools were provided for me to improve in ministry. They gave me ample budgets for books and periodicals, support staff of the highest quality, and leeway to experiment with creativity.
- They loved me enough to graciously let me go, following a Call to another place. That is love of the highest kind.
- They provided a three-month sabbatical that was, professionally speaking, one of the greatest things to happen to me. I was tired, on the verge of being burned out, and in need of renewal. Following the sabbatical I came back refreshed, full of energy, and ready for more ministry.
Love is often undeserved. I’m reminded of Luke 17:10 which says, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” But loved I was, and loved we were…my family and me. For that we will be always grateful to the people of Mt. Calvary.
How have you shown love to your pastor?