Transitions are hard—especially transitions that involve leaving and saying goodbye.
I hate saying goodbye. I’m not sure I know anyone who likes saying goodbye. My grandfather used to cry at every goodbye and it was heartbreaking to witness. I started to loathe goodbyes and tried to avoid the pain that came with them. I would “Irish goodbye” and just sort of disappear when the party was still going. This was so much easier. I didn’t have to worry about making anyone sad or wonder if people would miss me as much as I missed them. When it’s over it’s over; just slip away. No muss, no fuss.
Except while this avoids pain in the moment, it really isn’t fair to anyone. It doesn’t give people the chance to honor the relationship or experience that has been. Sometimes saying hard things and feeling difficult emotions are important. They provide a sense of closure so you can move on and fully step into the next new thing.
I have known I would be leaving the Slate Project and stepping down as co-pastor for some time now. Until now, June 2017 felt sooo far away. Now it is almost here. June 3rd will be my last day. #SlateSpeakITF will be my last event. And the preceding week will be my last time participating in #SlateReads and #SlateSpeak, at least for a time.
There needs to be a season when my absence is felt, so I can move on and so the community can move on. There may be a new co-pastor at some point and room needs to be made for that person. I will have a new community to serve and I need time to get to know them and they to know me as we start to build our new life together.
It is a very strange thing to feel joy and grief at the same time; to be both happy and sad. I feel like Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” The both/and-ness of this time is overwhelming, but much as I/we may want to, we can’t ignore it.
It has been an honor to be a part of this community and serving as one of its pastors has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The relationships I have formed in the Slate Project have been so dear to me and the thought of us not being in each other’s lives is heartbreaking. But, that is where the notion that our relationships will be changed, not ended, is a huge comfort. The ministry we have engaged in is God’s ministry, and even as we part, we remain members of the Body of Christ.
Monday May 29th will be my last BreakingBread. During that service and during that week’s #SlateReads and #SlateSpeak there will be a time for saying goodbye and releasing each other from the pastor/community of faith relationship. We will send each other forth into our new ministries, offering gratitude and thanksgiving for what has been and praying encouragement and blessings on what will be. I will be absent from the online community for at least a year, after which my hope is to rejoin you as a member of the community in the summer of 2018.
I will forever be grateful for the time when the Slate Project was my home. I pray God will continue to use it to share God’s radical love with the world.
May God guide us all as we continue to discern what it means to follow Jesus together and love one another as God loves us.
The Rev. Dr. Sara Shisler Goff is priest, writer, artist, activist, human being, and co-founder of @theslateproject. Starting in August Sara will be the chaplain at Seabury Hall, a independent Episcopal college preparatory school on Maui, Hawaii.