figuratively speaking, and I am relieved. I have been carrying around the secret of my impending retirement for many months now. It has constrained me in ways I didn't even know until I wrote the letter, informed the board, and then had the letter mailed to the congregation.
The letter arrived in most mailboxes yesterday and I also posted it here and on Facebook. Interesting to be using social media to get the word out---for instant feedback, there's no equal to FB and blog.
Colleagues responded first, with encouragement and thoughtful advice. They mostly are thrilled for me and I suspect they crave the kind of personal time retirement can bring. Ministry gives a distinctive shape to one's life and it doesn't allow for very much personal time. I thought I detected a note of slight envy, as well as the message to not slip off the map while wallowing in the freedom from ministerial duties.
Response from congregants has been slowly coming in and, by and large, they're excited for me and sad for themselves. My friend A warned me yesterday over our lunch not to be surprised if people experience "abandonment issues" and start acting crazy. We'll see how that turns out. I would hope that this healthy bunch of folks would be able to deal just fine.
I do feel sad about leaving them and I feel sad that this news has come on the heels of a tragic death and another impending death in our midst. But there wasn't a better time and I was having a hard time keeping my mouth shut. Still, when I announced it to the board, one fellow said "so, it comes in threes". Maybe that means we're done with loss for awhile.
I find myself checking off things mentally: this time next year I won't go to a board retreat, or plan an adult RE program, or conduct the animal blessing or the water ceremony or... And I won't need to sort out problems like hurt feelings in a congregant or the request to return by a former member who caused difficulty in the past or submit newsletter items.
It's a mixed bag, of course, because I will miss doing many of these things. And yet I won't wake up in the night, either, wondering what the best response is to the disgruntled congregant or the difficult former member. No more deadlines! No more sermon scrambling! No more UUCWI, in just 10 more months.
And that's tough. UUMA guidelines make it clear that former ministers have a duty to the incoming minister to clear out for awhile, give the new person plenty of room to make his/her own connection to the beloved community. I'll have to figure out what to do about some of my connections with the congregation, like Facebook, but generally I respect the guidelines and will be careful not to interfere with the new configuration of leadership.
It's a good thing that I'm moving 200 miles away, by choice. I won't need to do the awkward dance of fobbing off conversations in the grocery store that wander into UUCWI business that I can't share. My job will be to be caring but not involved, not competing with the colleague who is in the process of bonding with this congregation I love so dearly.