Just a few weeks ago, my wife and I concluded our time as Pastor of Fernwood Baptist Church, Spartanburg, South Carolina. We served in this position for five years, and our time was wonderful. We left because we have sensed a desire to live closer to our family, and we are moving to Florida where we will live close to both sets of our parents and my wife’s brother and his family.
Unlike many departures, ours was not motivated by frustration, burnout, or anything negative. We left a place and setting we loved to move to a place and setting where we sense we are supposed to be.
The congregation provided many wonderful occasions to say good-bye. We shared meals, read cards, enjoyed conversations, and had the great pleasure to say and hear many good words. On our final Sunday, the congregation hosted a wonderful lunch for us. When the lunch was over, it finally came time to say good-bye to a group of dear people that we loved very much.
I had thought about so many details related to our departure, but I had not thought about how to finally say good-bye to people. As the lunch ended, people gathered to extend their good wishes, and I found that I was unable to share words with them. Instead, I shed tears — lots of tears. Tears flowed down my cheeks, and many times, I would simply stand with a parishioner — and cry.
Rather than being embarrassed about tears I could not control, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the tears, They seemed to express what my words could not.
It was a new experience for me, and just one more reason to be grateful for my time with these wonderful people.