What day is it?
The task of the day yesterday was painting the railing on our deck. I had done all of the prep work he day before and was ready to get at the task. I was on the job before the construction workers began their tasks. They are installing large concrete storm sewer pipes next to Sheridan Lake Road behind our house, so the noise of machines is part of our daily life in the neighborhood. I was also thinking of our grandson Patrick and our daughter Rachel. It is a little confusing. Patrick’s birthday is today, but he has lived his life in Japan, where the clocks are a day ahead of us, so I was thinking of video chatting with them in the evening, which would be morning of his birthday in Japan.
I worked throughout the day and made good progress on my task. In the afternoon there was a bit of excitement at the construction site in our back yard. Two track excavators were working . One was digging the trench, the other lifting the concrete pipes into the trench and back filling. All of a sudden the machines stopped. Then we heard the siren of the firetruck from the station up the road. Soon we had the extra red and blue flashing lights of the fire trucks and the construction workers. The firemen talked to the workers. There were now more than a dozen workers standing around with a half dozen firemen, who were busy charging a line from the pumper truck. Within a few minutes we saw trucks from Montana Dakota Utilities and began to figure out what had happened. One of the excavators had made contact with a natural gas line. With the fire fighters standing at the ready, their hose aimed, the MDU people unloaded a mini-excavator and began to dig between the two big machines. After a couple of hours they had a pretty deep hole and not long afterward, the smell of gas wafted across the yard. The crisis averted, the firemen began to pack up their equipment and head to the fuel station. The workers continued to repair the pipe. Before they were done, there was an additional backhoe on the scene and one of the big excavators was helping beak rocks as they dug. The people from Mid-continent Communications arrived and began to work on their cable as well. There was a crew on the site until about 10:30 working on getting things to a place where they could pause their work.
With all of the entertainment right at the back door, I watched and painted and made good progress on my project. I quit my work a long time before the construction crews. I fired up the barbecue and we ate our pork chops on the deck watching the work as we ate.
I was thinking about talking with our daughter when I realized, “Oh, that’s right, it is leap year!” Our grandson was born on a Friday in Japan. We got the news on Thursday evening while we were at the last night of Vacation Bible School at the church. But leap year meant that the one year anniversary wasn’t just one day but two days forward in the week. Yesterday was Saturday here and it was Sunday morning in Japan. I had been thinking it was Friday most of the day.
All of a sudden it came to me, “I don’t even know the texts for this week!” I hadn’t been thinking about worship at all. It was a strange feeling for me. Usually, even when we are on vacation, I have some awareness of worship. I prepare worship bulletins in advance when I am gone. I’ve even done months worth at a time when I’ve been on sabbatical. I’m immersed in the flow of what the texts were last week, what has happened in the life of the community this week, what the texts are telling us this week. I am thinking of hymns and songs and readings and the general pattern of the life of the community. But I am out of the rhythm. I’m not doing any worship planning.
We will worship live with First Congregational Church in Bellingham, Washington this morning. But that won’t happen until 11 am in our time zone and I don’t need to do anything to prepare. I’m not into the flow of the life of that community. Most of the people are strangers to me and they won’t know I’m participating.
Last night, after we had been on our walk and talked with our daughter and her family it sort of hit me. I really am retired.
And so the grief begins. I’ve been around people all of my life and I know the process of grief. I’ve lived some pretty big grief, such as the death of a brother and a sister and my father and mother right in front of the congregations I serve. I knew that grief would be a big part of the separation from this congregation. But I also know the ethical obligations of a pastor who is leaving a congregation. It is not my role to meddle in the life of the congregation as it adjusts to an interim pastor. They have a new pastor now and it isn’t me. I understand completely and I accept the change. Still, I miss the congregation. I miss the flow of work. I’m grieving
I confess that I’ve checked the church web site to look at the bulletin. I am no longer the administrator of the church Facebook page and I no longer get the administrator alerts, but I check it fairly frequently. Things are a bit different in the era of the Internet and the season of Covid. I can pay attention to what is going on without directly contacting church members. I can continue to hold members of the congregation in my prayers without inserting myself into the role of pastor.
I’m sure I’ll get back into a weekly routine. I won’t forget what day of the week it is too often. If I am a bit uncomfortable with this “in-between” time, the discomfort is natural. I need to allow myself an opportunity to grieve what has passed as I look forward to what is coming.
It is Sunday morning and I’m up early. That feels natural. I hold God’s people in my prayers.