I have moved my household three times in the past three years, and I am reminded each time afresh how much I hate moving. I am fundamentally a homebody, someone who likes to stay put. I like to put down roots, get to know a place, and build a routine. I also like the familiarity of a known environment, and the very process of starting to pack sends me into an unpleasant tizzy. I don’t like not knowing where things are.
I have a similar response to saying goodbye to people and places. I am notorious amongst my friends for leaving social gatherings by announcing, “Well, we’ve got to be going” to whoever can hear me, and then barging out the door with an over-the-shoulder hand wave. Like ripping off a bandage, I prefer to leave quickly and with little fanfare. I have to remind myself to slow down, and to be sure to say goodbye to people who will care that I’m leaving.
My tendency toward brusque goodbyes comes not from a sense that goodbyes are unpleasant or painful. It’s more that goodbyes frequently seem so unnecessary. In this day and age, it is so easy to keep in touch using Facebook or email. And the homebody in me is always eager to get to the next place, to settle in again, to unpack my things. I find arriving to be so much more enjoyable than leaving.
But what all this haste and hurry overlooks is that goodbyes… moving… transitions are an opportunity to acknowledge that change is occurring. Yes, it is easy to stay in touch with people over email, but that ease dismisses the uncomfortable reality that staying in touch via email is not the same as seeing someone every day, or every Sunday. That saying hi on Facebook is not the same as ministering to someone, or being ministered to.
My last day as intern minister will be June 12. Even though we knew from the start that I would be with you for only one church year, many of you have fully embraced me as one of your ministers, and I have participated in church life as completely as possible. I have preached regularly, led rites of passage, participated fully in committee work, taught adult religious education classes, visited you at home and in the hospital, and been active in representing the church in the local community.
And in the six weeks ahead, it will be time to start saying goodbye, not “goodbye” like we will never see each other again, but “goodbye” to our relationships as intern minister and congregants.
May we enter this time of transition thoughtfully and with intention, to acknowledge that change is upon us once again.