A Message from Pastor Jennifer
A few weeks back, the Forest Grove News-Times and the Hillsboro Argus both carried the story about my leaving town at the end of May to take a new job in Montana on the front page of the newspaper. Since that time, friends and strangers alike have come up to me with that awkward blend of grief and gratitude that makes goodbyes so bittersweet.
They recite the mantra they know they are supposed to say, “I’m so happy for you,” through grimaced faces. Others can’t keep the tears from rolling down their cheeks as they sputter, “You’ve meant so much to us, and to our community.”
Upon learning of my departure, one of the staffers at Pacific University looked at me straight in the eye and said, “That’s the worst news I’ve heard all week.”
This is what love looks like sometimes—awkward, embarrassing, complicated; smiles and tears all mixed together. Since we Christian folk are supposed to make a habit of loving people, you’d think we’d get used to how messy love can be, but it’s not comfortable.
Here’s the thing, our faith constantly requires us to stand in uncomfortable places, to extend our tolerance for mess and disarray of people and places to make more room for love. It ain’t easy, but Christ is always asking us to open the doors of our hearts to those who may one day break our hearts for the sake of love.
You have opened the doors of your heart into tender love and welcome for me and my family, even when things got messy. So many of you have let me hold your hands and treasure your stories. You’ve let me carry your traditions and try new things, not all of which have succeeded spectacularly. You’ve offered help when needed whether we asked for it or not. You’ve brought food, sung songs, and prayed for us—oh how we covet your prayers for us. Now we’re leaving the safe, welcoming Shelter of your hearts and…it’s awkward.
It’s even more awkward because boundaries required by pastoral transitions mean that I won’t be able to maintain the closeness we’ve developed over the past decade. After I leave I won’t perform pastoral functions for anyone associated with our church; I have to change all of my Facebook friend settings, etc.
It’ll be awkward, but it’ll be what love looks like, because loving you as your pastor means letting you move on ahead into an even more wonderful future without me.
By the end of May, my face will be all twisted up in smiles and tears, too. I will treasure FGUCC in my heart forever, in all of our grace, in all of our awkwardness, because this is what it looks like to really have loved each other, and to have seen Christ in our midst—and that is beautiful.