The newsletter containing my good-bye article was sent out at the end of this last week. For your reading pleasure, I decided to include it (don't worry, it's short, I have about a quarter of a page each month) in today's blog.From the desk of the Pastor Intern.......
Wow... I can't believe it's time for this already - my last newsletter article. It doesn't seem as if I have been here long enough to be able to write something like this. There are so many things that I want to say, that I think I could take up an entire issue of the newsletter just to write them all down. I don't have that kind of space so I'll try to keep it short. The main thing I want to say is, "Thank you." Thank you for allowing a young, unsure, goofy and slightly awkward man to come and be the pastor intern at your church. Thank you for welcoming me and embracing me into your lives and homes and families. Thank you for forgiving and overlooking my mistakes, for laughing WITH me at my not-so-graceful moments, and for putting up with my colored shoes. Thank you for reaching out and loving me and helping me to more fully realize my gifts and voice as a pastor. I am now more sure of my call to be a pastor than I was when I first began this journey of internship, and that is because of the loving and grace-filled community at Immanuel that I have been called to serve. It will definitely be hard to leave this place that I have learned to call home and these people that I have learned to call friends and family. It will be hard to say good bye and to be unsure of when we will see each other again. But I hope you know that no matter where I go, and no matter how long I get to be a pastor, there will always be the seed that was planted during my time here at Immanuel, which with God and the help of wherever else I am called to be and whoever else I am called to serve, will grow and bear good fruit. I know that I was called to be among you and minister to you, if even for such a short time, but I am extremely thankful for and will continue to remember the ways that you have all ministered to me. I thank God for sending me to Immanuel, and pray that God continues to richly bless all of you. Love, PI Mark
So most of the people had read that before attending services this weekend. I hadn't really thought about it because I was oblivious to the fact that the newsletter had been sent out. But then, Saturday before church this cute, little lady comes up to me. Her name is Pauline and I believe she had a stroke a while back, so she walks pretty slow and with a cane. But she's just so small and so sweet. She came up to me and said, "I'm so sorry to hear that you're leaving! I'm going to miss you!" and then her eyes teared up. I had a hard time finding the words, but I managed to say something like, "I'm going to miss you, too!" and then I gave her a hug.
Well, then things progressed nicely until announcements. This was Youth Sunday weekend at church, so one of the high school students was doing the announcements and as she was saying them, I heard "We're having a farewell celebration for PI Mark on Sunday, August 14th between services. Be sure to come wish him Godspeed on his last day with us." I knew about the farewell celebration. I had talked with Supervising about it and had jotted something about it in my calendar. But to hear it announced, in front of the congregation, turns it into something a lot more real and imminent. It's weird, because even though I know I only have two weeks left it still hasn't struck me that I'm almost done. The end still seems like this distant reality. I guess we'll see how long it takes reality to set in once I start packing and cleaning my house (which begins tomorrow), and getting ready for the move back to the Mothership. I hate moving.And now for the shameless plug:
Some time ago I started the webring Reconciling Christian Bloggers. It is meant to be similar to the movements within the different churches, expressing welcome and affirmation to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Sort of like the Lutheran Church has the Reconciling in Christ program and the Presbyterian Church has More Light Presbyterians (and other churches have similar programs and organizations) as a way to let people know that their church believes that we are all equally children of God, and as such deserve the same rights and privileges within the Church (and beyond), and that their church seeks to be a place or welcome and affirmation for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
So, the Reconciling Christian Bloggers webring is meant to serve as a way to connect bloggers who agree that our GLBT brothers and sisters are just as much a part of the Body of Christ, and as such deserve full inclusion and participation in our churches. It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity is. If you believe that the Church should be a place of inclusion and compassion and not a place of exclusion and discrimination, then I invite you to join the Reconciling Christian Bloggers webring. We've got a nice, small crew already, but there could never be too many people spreading this Good News.