It's been "that" weekend on Vashon Island, the Saturday night goodbye/happy birthday/etc. party, and the Sunday morning farewell service. It's almost too fresh to talk about; I haven't soaked up all the nuances and meaningful moments, absorbed all the love and good wishes of congregants, appreciated thoroughly the "memory book" of signatures and blessings, marveled enough at the fragrance of the roses in the beautiful crystal vase made by one of our artists. I need some distance from it, to understand all that they have given me, not just today but over the four years I have served this congregation.
We welcomed twelve new members, "bridged" our high school senior, I talked with the kids about what it means when a friend moves away, and had deliberately shortened the sermon because of all the other events in the service. But the choir had prepared "We Are One" for the postlude and that was the highlight of the service, in my view, because it was the same song they had welcomed me to Vashon with, four years ago this month.
Tomorrow we'll spend a little more time together at the morning koffee klatch and noon lunch bunch, but then I'll be on my way, not to return again as their minister, unless some unforeseen emergency arises before their new minister is selected. If our paths cross at district or UUA events, we'll enjoy that contact, but I will not serve them in a pastoral way. A new minister will take my place.
I feel so good about what they have accomplished and I am aware that my leadership has helped them to achieve much of it. They are a different congregation in many ways, stronger, livelier, more mature, more eager to spread the good word of our faith in the community. They are excited about the prospect of beginning to offer UUism every Sunday next year, something I wasn't sure they would ever do. They are going to offer the OWL program in the fall. They are even outgrowing the Baptist sanctuary where we are meeting and will need to consider finding new space soon.
At the same time, many of the elders of the congregation are fading. One longtime activist and founding member, who has been slowing down markedly, fainted at the party and had to be taken to the hospital on the mainland. Another elder attended in her wheelchair, her husband bent and frail at her side. Others' strength is diminishing and new members are stepping up to take their places, so that they can rest and enjoy.
So I have mixed feelings about this transition. I want and need to simplify my life and really immerse myself in one congregation, Whidbey; I am proud of Vashon's blossoming and happy to have helped them achieve so much growth; and I am sad to realize that I will not be the one to officiate at the memorial services of beloved elders or dedicate the new babies or bridge the upcoming seniors, or welcome the new members. Another person will do that in my stead and I will step back and smile quietly at the new successes that the new minister, Rev. Whoever, will help them achieve.