Today is Sunday, January 22, 2023. It is an important day in my life. On an August Sunday in 1977 I was installed (not my favorite word, but it works for what I am saying) as the pastor of my first full-time ministry in Nezperce, Idaho. Forty-six years later, today, for the first time since 1977 I am not the pastor of a church somewhere. There are a couple of holes in that timeline. Between Pendleton, OR and Kimberly, ID there were four months of unemployment. When I left Kimberly, it took a few months to find Oakmound Christian Church while I was attending seminary.
So today my church held a retirement reception for Sherry and me. People came and talked to us, hugged on us, and shared how much the appreciate our time here. That time was a month short of thirty years. We ate together, which is one of those moments of intimacy that bond people together. There was a video presentation of friends, family members, and members of this church wishing a happy retirement and the acknowledgement that it will not be a normal, go off to the golf course kind of retirement. There were cards shared and a couple of journals in which people wrote messages. I haven’t read mine yet as some were still writing in them.
In a previous post I explored my sense of loss of identity, as I am not really Pastor Bruce any longer. I am becoming comfortable with that and acknowledge that for many I will always be which is pretty cool.
And people wished us blessings and success for our Zimbabwe adventure. There was a mixture of emotions expressed on that front. All (almost) are happy for us and excited that we are going. (People in Zimbabwe say they are excited that we are coming.) Many, if not most, are, however, sad we are leaving. Thirty years is a long time. Most those there today have come since we came. Maybe a dozen out of almost 150 people are in the category of those who are here before us. Those mixed emotions mirror those that I experienced today. I was asked several times, “How are you feeling?” My answer, “You name most any emotion and I have felt it at some point.”
So, on the night of the latest ‘last’ of this month, emotions are still varying. The excitement of anticipation, thinking about hopping on a plane in Houston on February 7 is alive and well. Sadness and grief of looking at an empty office, or being aware that “My House” is the last sermon here. (I’m headed to Zim and I am know that I have three weeks off before I start preaching again, and probably more than one a week.) I am proud of what I have accomplished while here and regret the mistakes that I have made. To hear people talk today, I am wonderful. It was a bit embarrassing knowing my weaknesses. Yet, I was honored as well. I have come to appreciate the mixture of last things. I have certainly felt many of them today. The next last will be Kingdom Kids. That will be a hard day. And a happy one as well.