Three months after announcing my resignation and starting the process of saying goodbye it is time for this chapter of our lives to draw to a close. I’ve preached my final sermon. My office is almost packed. I’ve tended to numerous details, making copious notes on the care and feeding of this beloved congregation.

Goodbyes are rarely easy. Especially in this case, where my spiritual calling involves knowing that it is time to go yet still having a great deal of uncertainty in what lies ahead.

But the journey continues. In Christ, the journey always continues. Beyond our doubts and uncertainties. Beyond difficult changes and painful goodbyes. Even, in some mysterious way, beyond death. For God is a God of resurrection, transformation, and life beyond death.

As we’ve explored in numerous ways over the past year, we make the road by walking. We do not yet know all the details of what the future holds for us, our community, or our world. We have tremendous hopes for the new world that is coming, proclaimed by Christ, a world of justice, love, and peace for all people. So we keep journeying in that direction, continuing the work of Jesus. We journey as individuals and as a church. It is a journey that we are intimately a part of, yet is also so much greater than each of us.

One of my favorite metaphors for the church is that of a caravan. Journeying through the wilderness, welcoming newcomers in search of travelling partners, equipping those alongside us with love, support, and wisdom. And, on occasion, blessing folks on their way as the time comes for them to leave the caravan. Sometimes to take a different path. Sometimes to journey with another group. Sometimes to seek a different destination. By their very nature caravans are always moving, changing, journeying. If they are not, they’re no longer a caravan! So to it is with the church. Through it all, the journey continues, as we make new roads toward God’s new reality.

My time with this caravan-congregation has been tremendously rich and blessed. But now it is time to diverge. Our journeys will continue, separately, and certainly different than they have been these past 7.5 years together.

In my physical journey I am preparing to move to Roanoke, Virginia. In my vocational journey I’m looking for opportunities to work for the common good as a community leader, most likely in the non-profit sector. In my spiritual journey I’m planning to take a 4-month sabbatical, giving myself time to rest and reorient, to fast from being part of a faith community in order to listen for the deep hungers of my soul.

I’ve had numerous folks ask me about “leaving the ministry” or “leaving the church” these past three months. Each time I’ve taken the opportunity to explain that these current changes are part of a journey. It is a key part of our Church of the Brethren tradition that ministry is not limited to paid, pastoral leadership. My calling and journey of ministry has always been broader. Similarly, the true meaning of church is far broader than its various institutional expressions. Yes, I’m leaving this group of believers and taking an break from feeling pressured to quickly join another, but I am in no way leaving the broad definition of church as the body of Christ that together is continuing the work of Jesus. Ministry and church remain part of my journey, just in different ways.

The journey continues. Sometimes in ways that are easy to see and understand. Sometimes not. Either way, God is there. Giving direction. Strengthening hope. Whispering that timeless reassurance: “Don’t be afraid.”

Our personal journeys continue. The church’s journey continues. The journey of Jesus continues. Near and far. Known and unknown. Part of the living body of Christ, intertwined across the miles and across the centuries with so many fellow adventurers. We really are never alone.

The journey continues, and while I am deeply sad to be leaving you I know we will always be sisters and brothers, co-adventurers, each journeying in our own way toward God’s new realm.

The journey continues. May yours be filled with abundant life, boundless love, and the support of community. May each day you find yourself making the road alongside Christ toward a new world of justice, joy, and peace for all. I’ll be making that road, too.

God be with you ’till we see this journey through.

Peace,
Matt