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On January 25, the Holy Cross Congregation Council met for its third Council meeting of the month. On January 13, there was a Special Council Meeting I called to announce my resignation and my new call to Central Lutheran Church in Everett, Washington. January 18 was our regular monthly Council meeting at which we spent most of our time getting ready for the Annual Meeting. And then on January 25, we met yet again. This time Pastor Juliet Focken, the Assistant to the Bishop who will be leading Holy Cross through the Call Process, called us together for my Exit Interview. 

Speaking only for myself, (but undoubtedly other Council members as well) I was not looking forward to my third Council meeting in one month. Even though Pastor Juliet had given us the three questions she was going to ask, I wasn't sure what to expect. It mostly felt like unwanted homework in the midst of a very busy and emotional time. An hour (or maybe 15-30 minutes) before the meeting, I dutifully (reluctantly) sat down and jotted down some responses to her questions. Then the Zoom meeting began. The next 45 minutes or so, the Council and I talked about the following three Exit Interview questions: 

1) What has gone well in your ministry time together?
2) What do you wish you would have spent more time on in your ministry together?
3) What is your greatest hope for the future of this congregation?

To my great surprise, those 45 minutes, spent with the sixteen other members of the Council, responding to those three questions, ended up being a joyous, emotion-filled time of laughter and tears. (One Council member commented, “Who thought there would be tears at an Exit Interview?) But tears there were; tears of both sadness and joy as we looked back on my sixteen years of ministry at Holy Cross. 

There were also tears of sorrow and laughter as we discussed our greatest hope for Holy Cross in the future. (Many Council members expressed their great hope that, even though I consider one of my major roles here at Holy Cross as a cheerleader for other people's ministries, I would not dress up like a cheerleader for my final Sunday. That decision has yet to be finalized.) ((Let's use this as a test to see who actually read's the Pastor's Blog on the website or in the Newsletter. The first person, outside of the staff, who reads this and tells me their opinion about me dressing up as a cheerleader for my final Sunday, will win an amazing cash prize. The size of the prize will be determined by how many people contact me before Sunday, February 6. ))

Looking back now on this “Unwanted” Exit Interview, reminds me that often times the unwanted, the unplanned for, the unwelcome surprises of life turn out to be blessings in disguise. The Bible has many stories of people who received unwanted calls to ministry. Moses wanted nothing to do with helping God free the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians. Jonah's call was so unwelcome that he tried to run away from God which directly led him to being vomited out of a fish and being asked by God a second time to help. This time Jonah said yes, but still reluctantly. God had to physically knock Paul off his ass (donkey) and blind him for a while before he bought into God's unwanted plans for his life. And surely the angel's news to Mary, that she was going to have a child, was originally unwanted, unplanned for, and unwelcome. But as they say, and as I am beginning to believe more and more as I get older, God works in mysterious way! 

In God's hands, the unwanted, the unplanned for, and the unwelcome can be transformed into new opportunities, unique adventures, thrilling challenges, and life-altering experiences. I believe that these are the some of the things God has in store for us all in this time of transition. I wish my memory was better so that I could recall how I felt sixteen years ago as I left my call at St. Timothy's and came here Holy Cross. I'm sure there were many mixed emotions from both congregations and myself. But as I look back on it now, I thank God and each of you, for the amazing opportunity, the unique experience, the countless thrilling challenges, and the blessed, life-altering experience it has been serving as your pastor. 


Pastor Jim