Here is something that rarely gets talked about among religious leaders, and certainly is not covered on any regular basis in seminary, but is important nonetheless: takeoff and landing. That is to say, entrances and exits, hellos and goodbyes, or integration and disintegration of leadership relationships under relatively healthy conditions.
Some religious leaders, both those who are paid and those who are unpaid for their leadership, will stay in one place for a long time and only say a conclusive hello and goodbye once or twice. Others will have a few such experiences. Hopefully for most of us, we won't do it so much that we become well-practiced at it. Therefore, for the best of the reasons, it is easy to do with relatively little grace.
I'm approximately halfway into a yearlong goodbye, and I am realizing how much I struggle with it. When I resigned from my last church in order to fly across the country, challenge myself in a new setting, and bring my wife closer to her aging parents, I had about half the goodbye time that I have now, and I dare say it was easier.
Today was one of those days when I felt myself stumbling through it all. I wasn't graceful in the least. I was cranky, whiny, and less than present. I was not ministerial in the way that I know I should and can be.
After some reflection tonight, I realized how important it is to keep regular in my spiritual practices during "takeoff and landing." Unfortunately, my spiritual practices seem to get lost during the inevitable complications of trying to adjust to a new setting or prepare to leave a setting. It happened when I came to my current church, and seems to also be happening as I leave.
I haven't been regular in my prayer practice since just before I started talking with my congregation last spring about the possibility of me leaving. And I let myself slip out of the habit of keeping a Sabbath. So tonight I did a "spiritual check-up" and realized I am experiencing spiritual disease. I had already re-determined to get back into holding the Sabbath last week during a therapy session. But after today, I am recommitting to my prayer practice too.
Takeoff and landing is, on one hand, not for the faint of heart. It can be a rough ride! But, on the other hand, even under the best of circumstances, all of us are going to do it at least once or twice. Faint of heart or not, we don't really get a choice. As long as we must say goodbye, why not do it in a spiritually healthy manner befitting of the religious leadership legacy we are leaving from our good work when we had the stability of an ongoing relationship between us and our congregations? I recommend keeping regular spiritual practices toward that end. As for me, I am getting back to mine!