I was once taught that some of the first things that we do as human beings is to learn how to say various long and short forms of “hello” and “goodbye”. And as children we learn to say hello, learning to welcome those people we do not know and the things we have not yet experienced. We also become skilled at letting go of those people and those things which we have known and have done in thanksgiving and in favour of being able to welcome someone or something new into our lives. As adults we come to realize that the times between “hello” and “goodbye” are sometimes long and sometimes are short. But here is the Good news in all that. “Farewell” does not mean “Goodbye forever”.
In the four and a half years that I have been privileged to be your clergy, we have shared a lot together. We have celebrated the birth of children and grandchildren as we have welcomed them into not only our lives but also the lives of the communities in which they live and the places and places into which God will lead them because in baptism they belong to our community of the Church. We have celebrated the marriages of many of the adult children who, living their lives either here or there in other places and spaces come with family to reconnect and to renew the life in which they walk within the family through marriage. We have then celebrated the lives of those who have gone before us into the nearer presence of the Lord and we now wait for that Day, that moment when we will be with them again and will not need to know the pain of separation. We look forward to that Day of hope when all the tears will be wiped and way and “farewells of all kinds” will not be uttered again.
It has been our honour and our privilege to have shared in all these things with you. You have welcomed us into your midst and we have been able to share with you in the life that we live. Now it is time to bid farewell, trusting that God is guiding us all in the ways that we should go. We treasure the things that we have shared with you: the joys and the sorrows, the tragedies and the triumphs. And we take the lessons that have been shared to help steer us the in the paths that we must walk in the days ahead as we all look to the undiscovered adventure that is our future. We will pray with you for the person that God will call to be your next clergy and pastor, that as you wait, you prepare welcome someone new into this parish, that God will mightily bless and prosper the work that you will do together.
Also, I ask you to keep in mind that we will one day be united and together again in the presence of Him who risked and offered Himself so that we might be with him, and with each other forever. And that is why I say to you that farewells are not forever – they are temporary and only last until Jesus makes an end of them on that Day.
In the meantime, may the grace of God that upholds us in ways we cannot number, bless you in your work and ministry together. And let the love of Christ flow fully from your hearts into this community that everyone will know that God is here and that we are following Him wherever we may be.
Pax Dominum, (The Peace of the Lord be with you)