Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Loving and Leaving

This past weekend on Vashon, I was very aware of my feelings about ending my contract with these dear people. And as Valentine's Day approaches---and as I preached about love on Sunday morning---what it means to love and to have love in one's life was much on my mind.

I realized recently that, in making the decision to leave Vashon, I've experienced the professional equivalent of that old romantic song, "to say yes to one and leave the other behind; it ain't often easy, it ain't often kind, did you ever have to make up your mind?"

As the years have gone by since I began to serve both these small congregations (since fall 2003), though I have always loved the Vashon congregation and have felt close to individual members and pleased with their successes, I eventually realized that my feelings and actions toward the Whidbey congregation represented a deeper sense of connection.

And then I knew that I needed to make a decision: would I continue to serve both groups, risking serving one better and more passionately than the other, or would I end my relationship with one group so that I could serve the other with greater dedication, risking the lessening of my financial security?

It has felt eerily like dating two lovely men, but seeing the relationship with one as sweet and the relationship with the other as deepening. At some point, it's necessary to decide what one wants out of the relationship---sweetness or deeper intimacy.

And so I have chosen the Whidbey congregation as the group I will spend the next years of my professional (and personal) life with. My decision means I will figure out how to keep body and soul together without the income from a second congregation; it means I will ask the Whidbey folks to change their relationship with me from "consultant" to "settled". And it means I can throw my whole heart and soul into my relationship with them.

Ministry to a congregation is a love commitment requiring one's whole self, being careful to retain one's perspective and to take care of oneself but committing to the spiritual nurture and wellbeing of that beloved community.

There's always risk in an intimate relationship, whether it is a marriage or a friendship or a ministry. Will it last? Will either of us be disappointed? Will we manage our difficulties and continue to grow together? Will our partnership result in beneficial contributions to each other and the larger community? We take on these risks together and covenant to live with them, facing them, dealing with them, overcoming them with trust and with great love. I look forward to it.


LinguistFriend said...

If I remember correctly, you have mentioned that the Whidbey congregation plans to build a church of their own (with UUA assistance?), so there is some forward impetus there. At the same time, I hope that you have some notion that it is realistic to think of someone having a settled status there, and . . . and . . . There are number of things there that you would not necessarily want to talk about in public and may indeed still be rather iffy.
I will hope for the best for you in the sense of stability and your being able to focus
on a single major endeavour, as well as whatever else is precious to you.
Aside, all this talk about loving and leaving brings up difficult thoughts, however. I have always found it difficult to separate from both people and places, to a self-destructive extent. Well, it does not hurt to have someone else bring up a more successful view on those issues.

Mile High Pixie said...

Well, Ms. Kitty, perhaps this will help a bit with your blahs. I must say that "blah" is an efficient self-defense mechanism. When I was working a lot last year and taking my architectural licensing exams, I didn't listen to the news for almost 18 months. I also didn't engage in any of my usual hobbies and my marriage even suffered a little, all because i didn't have the energy to care about much else than work and tests. Good for you to decide that you want to focus. i hope this helps unblock your creativity and energy. What the world needs most is people who care, and who care with love.

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, Lf and MHP. It's exciting to make this change, yet it's risky as well. But what's life without risk?

LinguistFriend said...

"What's life without risk?" We take out insurance against many forms of risk. I was glad that I had earthquake insurance on my house in the San Fernando Valley at the time of the LA earthquake in 1994; I read that fewer people in that area have earthquake insurance now than did then. Those with significant sources of security of various sorts can take greater risks than others who lack them, of course, which is a source of strength. I hope that is the spirit in which you are speaking.
On the other hand, perhaps there is a Norse spirit in that willingness to risk; it is, of course, the spirit of the Europeans who settled Iceland, Greenland, and a bit of Nova Scotia (for a while, at least).

LinguistFriend said...

Oops, I meant Newfoundland (L'Anse aux Meadows), not Nova Scotia.

ms. kitty said...

I guess I can't envision life without any risk, LF. Insurance doesn't keep earthquakes away; it just lessens the financial burden. People still live in California despite the possibility that they could be on an overpass when the Big One hits. Even there in beautiful Bowling Green, there are doubtless risks you can't avoid!

But I appreciate your regard for my safety, even as my Norse nature walks into the future without a guaranteed adequate income.