Around two weeks ago, I received an email that changed my life for the foreseeable future.
I had spent almost a decade building a life and security within a community that looked out for me and always showed an interest in what I was doing and where I was at in life. I had virtually cultivated an extended family. I had a place to belong, and felt like I was playing quite a satisfying role within it.
And with just a few words on a screen, all of that came crashing down.
Okay, so that was quite the melodramatic dropped intro. You’re probably wondering what on Gallifrey I’m talking about now. So allow me to explain:
My dad has been a pastor for nearly ten years, and now he’s stepping down. Tomorrow morning’s service will be his last at that church.
It should go without saying (or it does for me, anyway) that this will have several implications for different people: for my dad, for the rest of my family, for the church congregation… and yes, for myself. Let me be clear that I don’t want to make this situation all about me or turn it into a personal drama of mine, because I might be one of the people whom this affects the least. But it does affect me, and I can’t get around that, so I’d like to share a few ways in which I feel it does.
I can’t speak for the rest of my family, but there are a number of things I know I won’t miss about being a Pastor’s Kid (PK). They range from having to stay behind an extra hour or two after each service, to feeling like every pair of eyes in the church was trained on me as part of the pastor’s family, to having churchy subculture be inescapable at home… For sure, I’d be lying if I said that my experience of PK-dom has been entirely rosy, and I’m not sure how many of the points I just listed will change once my dad has resigned. But for each of those things, there is something I’ll sorely miss about our soon-to-be-former church.
The fact that we’re leaving a congregation that I’ve called family for nearly ten years won’t be fully easy to swallow. Some of these people have known me since I was 10 (I’m 19 now), and have seen me at my best and worst. Even though I wish to join a different church anyway from September (in Cheltenham, where I’ll spend the next three years studying), I can’t forget the way the folks at Hebron Church went the distance to make me feel like one of them.
And that speaks not just to my own experience of Hebron, but to many other people’s as well. My time here at Scargill House (which the congregation has been fully supportive of, by the way) has taught me much about what authentic Christian community looks like, and I can now see that Hebron has this just about nailed. On top of that, they’re a strong group of people with a shared core aim, so even though my dad’s resignation might have caused a bit of a stir, I’m sure it won’t cause the whole church to collapse. I hope and pray that that all these things will continue to be true going forward, and that those who find themselves darkening the church’s doors in future will experience the same welcome that I and the rest of my family did.
And now – a bit about my dad…
My dad has done an excellent job of leading the congregation and taking things in the directions they needed to go, his preaching interested me on several occasions, and his enthusiastic and intentional personality has meant he suited the pastoral side of his job pretty well. Of course, he didn’t do it all by himself; there was a team of elders and deacons making decisions alongside him. But all the same, I’d say he stepped up to the role remarkably well. I don’t know if someone is to fill said role after my dad has quit, but if that’s the case, then I hope and pray that they are everything Hebron needs them to be.
What’s my dad going to do next? Right now, he isn’t entirely sure, although my mum tells me that he would be keen to pastor another church at some point. I’m sure there will be a number of people who, when my dad reaches the end of his career, will look back on the 9.5 years he’s spent pastoring Hebron as his ‘glory days’. But even so, I can see him getting into other things for a few years yet; there are many things my dad is known for doing, but resting on his laurels is not one of them.
Ultimately, though, it’s all up to him. For all of the disagreements I may have had with him (and my mum) in the past, I can tell that he has a good head on his shoulders, and that the judgements he makes have mostly all been pretty hard to fault. Whatever he goes into next, I’m confident he will do it well, but I pray for the right thing to be made clear enough to him all the same.