Trying not to preach, and not being entirely successful...
Just a few things that stand out one day later:
Last week I discovered a pile of smelly dishcloths in the church kitchen. I took them home and we washed them, and as I put them in our car for taking to church yesterday, I smiled. I mean--fitting, eh?--a last little mundane job. On Saturday I baked the bread that we used for communion yesterday, and as I smelled it baking I prayed--I mean, what is more evocative than the aroma of bread baking?
The worship team and a few others always pray with me before service. Yesterday we went into the little prayer room earlier than normal. Instead of prayer there was a lot of silliness, laughter, joking....and then prayer. That was good!
It was nice to see a mostly full sanctuary. It was good to see my daughter singing with the worship team (for the first time), good to have people stand and applaud when I came to the platform (except it made me cry), good to look out over the congregation and see many people who have come to us during the past year, good to have one dear lady say, "I intended to visit to make my family member happy, and never come back. I'm here because of you." When I said, "You aren't leaving because I am, are you?" she said no. It was good to be aware of love and grace and mercy. It was good to see that well over half of those present were under forty. The flowers in the picture were for me, my favorite flower combo of yellow and blue.
It was good, and very difficult, to stand behind the altar table and prepare to share communion for the last time. Before we partook of the elements, Ken and I prayed individually for each person present. We tried to be brief, and we mostly were, but we shed a lot of tears (as did mostly everyone else). It took a while, and we did not get out of church on time, but no one seemed to mind. Since my sharing from the pulpit was relatively short, we did all right. Almost everyone hugged us; some prayed for us when we finished praying for them. I could not pray for some people (just too difficult) and by the grace of God Ken was able to do so. It was profoundly moving, especially praying for our wonderful young people and I soaked about six tissues.
Afterwards we went to the banquet room of a local restaurant. There were smiles and laughter, a lovely cake, a check from a "love offering" etc.
Yesterday someone gave me this candle. A note with it said, "This is to remind you that...God, working through you..., was able to turn a group of broken people into something beautiful. We love you."
I cannot think of anything more warming to a pastor's heart than that!
I still have to finish packing up my office. Ugh.