Pastoral transitions are hard. They are hard on you and me, both. After seven good years, we have built a lasting relationship with each other. We have helped each other through hard times and have shared much laughter.
My experience in the churches I have served over the years is that most people will give you the benefit of the doubt when you arrive and will give their trust as long as you (the pastor) don’t do something to dishonor that trust. You did that for me and I am confident you will do it for Kristin.
One of the hardest things about these transitions is the “letting go." All of the clergy in our conference serve together in a covenant with each other. Part of that covenant is to be supportive of one another in every way we can. Perhaps the most difficult thing of all is for the “departing” pastor (I’m not dead just yet) to stay departed.
There will be events that occur in which you might want to call on me to conduct a wedding or a funeral. To be a part of a family’s life in that way is the highest of honors and we clergy take them seriously. But as of July 1st, Kristin will be your pastor. You will need to depend on her to do and be that for you. I will not be allowed to come back to do those things. Not because I don’t love you or don’t care—you know that isn’t true.
I will need to stay departed in order to help Kristin establish herself as your “go-to” person. You will find her to be a great pastor. Once you sit and talk with her, you will realize right away that she is very approachable and has a great spirit of love and compassion.
My departure doesn’t mean we are no longer friends. We always will be. I look forward to hearing from you from time to time about things in your life.
We in the clergy have an understanding of our role that we stand on one another’s shoulders. I stood on the shoulders of Tom Binford and John Carpenter and Malcolm Patton and Vin Walkup and David Miller and all the others who came before. I was humbled and honored to do it. Serving as your pastor has been a sacred trust and I can’t possibly thank you enough for your love and support for Tari and I.
Over the course of these last few weeks, I’m sure we will be able to share good memories and more laughter—and maybe even some tears. All of it is a sign of our mutual admiration and respect.
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.