It may seem strange to think of a pastor’s departure as a gift, but there is a definite blessing around the time. This weekend, I was so fortunate to experience that time of blessing firsthand. One of my colleagues referred to it as “Holy Ground,” and there was absolutely that sense of holiness around the conversations that took place in Clovis, NM, on Sunday.
Pr. Bonita Knox, who has been a loved and valuable leader in the Panhandle Conference and all of NT-NL, will be leaving to begin a new call in Wyoming in a few weeks. Part of my responsibility is working with congregations in transition, so I joined the folks at Trinity for worship and conversation afterward. It was my time to talk to them about the transition to come, but also the time for them to reflect on the last 13 years with Pr. Knox serving as their pastor.
To guide that reflection, I asked the members there to share what accomplishments they’ve had in that 13 years, and to also share what Pr. Knox has meant to them personally. The stories were deeply moving, and the insights about their growth as a congregation were profound. The most telling statement came from a council member who said Pr. Knox helped them “transition from maintenance to mission.” That alone makes the whole 13 years there beyond any meaning we put into words.
The gift of all this is that Pr. Knox had no idea this congregation had been paying so much attention. Sometimes pastors wonder if our sermons make it past a Sunday morning and if our ministry makes a difference. So I watched her face as she listened to the feelings and reflections of her congregation. THAT was a gift to me, and where I felt the holiness of that moment. The words shared on Sunday morning at Trinity made it very clear to Pr. Knox that her ministry HAS been valuable. It has made a difference in the lives of the congregation and also the wider community of Clovis. I can personally attest to the fact that it has made a difference even beyond, as her leadership has been solid and strong.
Added to the sense of holiness that morning was a farewell and godspeed for a young military family who have been deeply involved in the congregation as well. The depth of the relationships was moving, and the handmade gifts given to the two young children were touching. This congregation loves deeply and sees family as far more than blood. We closed the worship with a blessing for Pr. Knox that I led since I won’t be there for her actual farewell. It was moving and emotional and wonderful.
It’s too bad we don’t always know the meaning of our relationships and our ministry until we are leaving, but that’s part of our human nature. Transitions and farewells prompt us to reflect and to thank. I am just thankful I was blessed to be a witness.