As I wondered about the many questions raised by the situation explained in my previous post, I found one of my usual standards for discernment coming to mind: Micah 6:8. And I considered:
The new pastor: It is surely a matter of justice that she be allotted the space and freedom in which to commence and establish her new ministry. It is a matter of kindness that I not clutter her life with the distraction of my presence and others' feelings about me. And it is a matter of humility for me to recognize that I am no longer called to minister to that congregation.
Moi: It's an issue of justice that I am no longer officially burdened by the demands of a former congregation. It's a kindness to myself that my care is focused on one group of people and not dispersed between two -- something I should surely recognize after the month of November! ~ in which I was preparing to leave one church and to begin anew at another. And certainly I am humbled by the recognition that the new and unfamiliar is now my bailiwick, rather than the known and comfortable.
The deceased: Well, he's dead. I'm not one to see signs of the dead in this life. Maybe once, with Josh. My mother has been dead for 53 years and not once have I felt her presence. But I think that if this gentleman could come back, he would tell me that I had served him generously and well and, as someone long active in the church and its transitions and politics, he would say, "It's time for you to move on and let the pieces of the puzzle fall into their new places. The church is imperfect in its practice of justice, kindness, and humility, but it's better that we try than that we just blunder along on the basis of our own limited responses."
And, the most important person, to my way of thinking: The widow. Here's where it falls apart for me. It is, to some extent, both just and kind that her and her family's immediate care, including the entire funeral, be the responsibility of the pastor to whom she is entrusted for the next several months. That pastor is likely to learn much more about her in my absence than she might in my presence, and thus will be able to provide better care in the weeks to come. And as far as walking humbly with God ~ without a tried and trusted pastor of two years alongside of her, she may be pushed toward God in ways that I might delay, simply by virtue of being a familiar comforting presence.
The truth is, it does not seem kind to me that someone should be without someone she has come to trust in a time of acute grief. And, knowing full well what it is like to see people of every degree of relationship return to their lives with astonishing speed, I really, really, really hate being one of those people.
I suppose that I, myself, am being pushed toward a deeper understanding of the communion of saints. But I'm not exactly inclined to embrace that possibility.
Does this raise issues? Oh, yeah. I am so thoroughly sick of death and its ripples throughout every other relationship in life. At sixty, having just closed out a decade in which many of my friends have encountered death up close and personal for the first time, I feel as if it has saturated my entire life ~ and it's going to get worse, not better, as we all age.
I have no conclusions to offer. I have some more personal reactions to explore, though: Maybe in a few days.