What I’ll Miss: a pastor’s thoughts on leaving her church

After almost a decade at my church, I am leaving to pursue writing full time, at least for a season. This coming Sunday is my last day in the pulpit! Here are just a few of the things that I’m going to miss . . .

I’ll miss my place in the sanctuary, the red velvet throne that’s lost its springs. I’ll miss looking at the stained glass window and studying Jesus’ face. I’ll miss watching people enter, their posture telling me something about their week. I’ll miss praying for them; will miss praying for the Spirit upon the service.

I’ll miss choosing hymns, which is a whole body experience, my fingers leafing through the hymnal’s smooth pages as I hum tunes and whisper lyrics, searching for the right words, the right mood for a particular text, a particular day.

I’ll miss the early Sunday clear of Highway 7 and the sound of my car tires rolling onto White’s Ferry. I’ll miss turning my head to watch the fog lift from the Potomac or to search for the wings of a great blue heron.

I’ll miss holding the communion bread in my hands and tearing it. I’ll miss the words I pronounce, but didn’t write, mysterious words I say in tandem with other preachers from other places and time, words of comfort and challenge: Take and eat.

I’ll miss praying before Session meetings with an agenda on the table before me, all too aware I’m not big enough to lead, but grateful that the Spirit of God, and the elders around the table, will lead with me.

I’ll miss drinking coffee between worship services, chatting about things of no consequence until, unexpectedly; someone shows me what’s on their heart, their mind, their spirit. I’ll miss the tears that spring to my eyes as we breathe a prayer together, silent or aloud, tears of petition, or thankfulness.

I’ll miss standing on someone’s front steps, ringing a doorbell and praying they’ll be glad to see me, praying the Spirit will move between us, praying I’ll find the right words.

I’ll miss the way the light shines through Jesus, the stained glass Jesus beside the empty tomb. His robes are white and his hair lanky and brown. There’s a chip on his chin — a blemish from some rock flung up by a long ago lawnmower? and the chip refracts the light. The blemish is perfectly round, like a bullet hole. It’s this wound which pierces my heart, this collision of the most mundane thing, lawn care, and this most holy thing, our risen Lord. For isn’t that exactly what ministry is? For years I’ve sat in my red throne chair, studying that Jesus, observing the way we wound him carelessly from generation to generation, and how, even so, the light gets through.


2 responses to “What I’ll Miss: a pastor’s thoughts on leaving her church”

  1. Beth Huizenga Avatar
    Beth Huizenga

    wonderfully evocative piece, Ruth – thanks for sharing.

  2. Ruth – this is quite poignant; the sadness and the affection (love?) are intertwined beautifully. I am especially struck your rendering of the image of Jesus with a bullet hole in his chin from the random rocks of this world.

    I do hope this next vocational chapter is everything you want it to be and fruitful in the widest way possible.

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