The future calls

My “to do” list for today is pretty long. There are only about three things on the list that involve going somewhere, but there have been plenty of days in the last few months when the list didn’t involve going anywhere. Today we wrap up living in a house that has been our home for a lot of significant events. Most of the rooms are already empty. The action seems to be focused in the kitchen where we are sorting out the final items to pack. Had this not been a season of coronavirus, we might have planned to eat a few more meals in a restaurant. As it is, we’ve been pretty good about eating our way through the freezer and pantry. We no longer have all of the staples that we might have once kept on hand. We’ve been paying attention to quantity when we go to the grocery store and some things have worked out pretty well. For example, we have the smallest quantity of rice on hand than we’ve had for a very long time. just a little in the bottom of the canister. On the other hand, we seem to have gone long on noodles. They are dry and easy to move, so into the box they go. We can have soup more often for a while while we balance our pantry in our new home.

There is joy and excitement in an opportunity to start over. I remember when we arrived in Chicago after three days of being on the road. We didn’t know our way around town. We didn’t know where to find a grocery store. We unpacked our belongings in a short amount of time because we didn’t have many belongings. We figured out how to get enough food for a few meals and began learning about our neighborhood. A year later we were eager to help new students learn their way around.

It is quite different for us in this move. We’ve been visiting our son and his family in our new hometown for several years. We know where to find the essentials. We won’t have to ask for directions to find the bank or grocery or hardware stores. We don’t need a map to make sure that we don’t get lost when we take a walk around the neighborhood. There is, however, a steep learning curve as we establish our home in a new place.

It is interesting to be making the move as our nation begins the process of preparing for a transition in leadership. Our first months of settling into a new home is taking place as our nation settles into a new administration. There are already signs that the process will have a few bumps and twists that are hard to predict. Of course transitions in power are built into our nation. We’ve been doing this every few years for a long time. Although there are days when it doesn’t seem like it, it has only been four years since we switched presidents. Those in politics become practiced at packing up and moving on.

On my mother’s side of our family there are a number of Methodist ministers. Part of the ordination vows they took was a promise to submit to the discipline of the church, which included going to serve in the places where one was called. It was the practice in those days for Methodist ministers to serve for short periods of time, often just a couple of years, rarely more than four. I read a few journal entries of pioneer Methodist Ministers who would pack up their entire household each spring as they prepared for the annual conference. They would head off to the site of the state conference, which changed each year, without knowing where they would be living after the conference. At the conference new assignments would be handed out and the families would head to their new assignment from the conference. First you pack up, then you find out where you are going, and onward you go.

It has not been that way for us. We’ve always had an opportunity to visit and learn about our next place of living before we packed up. We also have had the luxury of living in one place and serving the same congregation for a longer period than was the case for those early ministers. The calls of our careers were 7, 10 and 25 years - time enough to really get to know our congregations and to become a part of the communities where we served. Typically a move for us involved a year or more of searching and discerning about our call followed by interviews, trial sermons, and visits to the new place. Then, once the decision was made, we usually had 90 days back at our previous call to wrap things up and get moved.

This time it was different. Although it wasn’t the way we had planned it, there was serious talk in the congregation a couple of years before our retirement. Folks had plenty of time to adjust to the coming change in leadership. Then the congregation hired an interim minister to serve for two additional years. When our retirement became official, we planned to take three months to get packed up and make our move, but that stretched into five months for a variety of reasons. The somewhat slower pace was good for us. We were able to do more sorting and move a bit less of the accumulation of the years in this place. We were able to make a studied move. And the transition is just beginning for us. Instead of buying a new home, we’ve decided to lease a home for one year while we learn about our new place and shop for a retirement home. The year will allow us to do a bit more sorting and to discover our community in the new place. It is a luxury we’ve never before known.

Today feels like a momentous day. Our last full day in this house. Our last night to sleep here before the new owner takes possession. And it is easy to slip into a bit of nostalgia and to think of what is ending. But there are wonderful new things beginning in our lives and much joy that lies ahead.

Years ago when we were serving in our first parish, a colleague urged us to consider moving to a new call. “The future,” he said, “belongs to God. And God is always calling you towards the future.” Those words seem as true today as they did 35 years ago.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!