Leaving a Church: A Death and Resurrection

Benjamin Kane —  April 11, 2014

Photo Sep 27, 11 19 23 AMIn this season of Lent we are constantly reminded of our mortality. My last Sunday at Westminster was March 30th and during the service the congregation sang Amazing Grace–I didn’t sing as I could only cry my way through it as I listened to the words and realized my time at WPC had come to an end.

Following the service I hugged and greeted members as we said goodbye. Eventually, someone grabbed me and told me to get to the fellowship hall as the reception for my wife and I had started and people were waiting.

When I entered a few youth gave me hugs and said they never thought I was coming; another said, “It was like we were at your funeral. We sang Amazing Grace in church, there were pictures of you on the projector screen and you were nowhere to be found.”  We laughed in order to ease the awkwardness of that possibility; only later did I realize I wish I had said that day was a type of death; but because of our faith in God’s power over death, Sunday was a celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

That was true on my last Sunday and something I’ve come to celebrate. Death is all around us and we can choose to ignore it or live into it. Ignoring it is relatively easy–we can turn off the TV or scroll past the Facebook and Twitter posts about death. Doing this allows us to keep focus on what makes us happy. Living into it is a tougher path as it requires us to confront the realities of death.

One of the realities of death is saying goodbye to what was and venturing into what will be. I’ve said goodbye to many folks and it hasn’t gotten easier with each hug. The internal sense of loss emerges as I realize what was – is no longer. I’ve found myself fighting the urge to ignore these feelings. The pains associated with leaving a church are real and something I’d rather not acknowledge, but I must. And we must realize that the relationships are different; the makeup of the staff is different; how we interact with each other is different. And we must realize that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Over time I’ve realize that the reality of change still stings, but I know it isn’t the final word on this process of leaving one call and moving into another. In these last weeks I have come to see the power of the resurrection in two ways. First, through the words of welcome and excitement from the church folks where my family and I are moving. Second, in my belief that God is in control of what will happen next at WPC. No one knows what the future holds, but we can all proclaim God’s presence within it. New and fresh leadership will invigorate the church and while it is hard to admit that they will flourish without me. What I’ve continuously told myself throughout this process is what our faith proclaims in the season of Lent, “It might be Friday, but Sunday is coming!”

We have a choice in our life and in our faith: acknowledge the reality of death in our lives or live our lives with our heads in the sand.  This liturgical season calls us to consider a variety of questions such as: Where is death in your life?  Do you move past it as a way to soften it?  Where is resurrection in your world? If you don’t resurrection in your world, I pray the Christian community (or any community of the faithful) realizes our call to proclaim Christ’s resurrection in everyone’s life.

Benjamin Kane

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Ben is a husband, father, son, brother, and a PC(USA) minister. These identities provide him myriad glimpses of God's unconditional love and grace. He is a Duke basketball fan, NPR listener, reader of almost anything, occasional writer & runner, hopeful New Yorker cartoon creator, and discerner as to who God is. He is the Pastor at Howard Memorial Presbyterian Church in Tarboro, NC--"the crossroads of western civilization."