Friends in Christ,
Goodbyes are hard – they remind us of life’s transience, fragility, and the need placed upon all of us to let go. When I was a child I vividly remember the most bittersweet moment of my time at my grandparent’s house was that moment of saying goodbye when we pulled out of their long, pebbled driveway while they stood painting the sky, full-arm waving not too unlike you’d see at a concert, or more likely for them, a tent revival; my parents would always drive really slow so that we could wave as long as humanly possible, until they were mere smiling and waving dots fading in our rear-view. I’ve been thinking about them lately and these heartfelt goodbyes, and there’s something I’ve realized: their goodbye wasn’t just a farewell; good churchgoers that they were, they were also giving us a benediction. “Go, be where you are; take our love with you as you journey home.” The difficult distance that opened up as our car drove on was, if viewed with the eyes of faith, filled with blessing.
For me, the challenge in goodbye’s is also the opportunity in them: to not hold on, but to bless the other along their journey. This is no easy task, especially for Katie and I as our lives have been so enriched by being among you these 4 years. We have shared Sunday after Sunday together; hours in conversation, sometimes in meetings, and other times on back porches or in living rooms. I cannot imagine how it wouldn’t be difficult – but I’m grateful for even this, because it’s a difficulty born of affection (thankfully not affliction!).
As has been mentioned, July 21st will be my last Sunday as a clergy at St. Paul’s. After that day, I will no longer be your pastor. The practice of our church is that when a pastor leaves a parish, they are no longer available for the spiritual, pastoral and sacramental care of the members of the parish. This both allows for any new pastor to enter the community and build relationships of support and care and releases the departing pastor to allow for them to form relationships and bonds with a new community. Please know that there is a sense of loss for me in this, but I do trust in God, and in God’s gospel; a gospel that turns the bitterness of goodbye, into an unexpected benediction of new life. I leave here confident of the good work St. Paul’s will continue to do, the new life you will be called into, and confident that the difficult distance of this, and all our goodbyes, will be filled with the stronger weight of blessing as we each accompany one another home.
Garrett and Katie Yates