Boundaries in Retirement

This week’s reflection comes from Pastor Patty Ebner

When I arrived on January 2, 2018 to begin my call as your Pastor for Congregational Care and Outreach, my interactions with you were as if I had always been one of you. Of course, I didn’t know the details of your lives but the connection I felt was palpable. Over time, even a short amount of time, you included me, accepted me and trusted me. I mention this now, as I am preparing to leave our community and to name the primary reasons for the ease of my entry—both the presence of the Holy Spirit and healthy boundaries set and honored by my predecessors. 

The healthy boundaries allowed me to step into an open space and into the lives of people who were ready or at least willing to give me a chance to serve, to be one of your Pastors, to respond to God’s call in my life. I am so grateful that God brought me to a place where such a space had already been created, ready for me to begin my ministry with each of you. 

Let me name that your response to my decision to leave/retire has been over the top KIND. And I am so grateful that my contribution has been received and valued in such a way that you have been fed and nurtured by our interactions. One of my top priorities during my tenure here and even as I leave, is that of a healthy faith community, a community committed to its mission, to serving God and one another. These commitments set by my predecessors and each of you have held this community in tact for decades and will create a space for the lucky individual who will step into the role I have had the honor of filling for these last five years. 

The United Church of Christ has provided guidelines for Pastors leaving active ministry in a healthy manner. These guidelines require a period of separation. It is expected that when pastors leave a church, they separate from that congregation through its interim time and search process, and then at least one year after the new settled pastor is selected before reconnecting in any way with the congregations they have served. These ethical boundaries also require that the pastor who is leaving not function in any pastoral way with anyone from the congregation during that time. That includes worshiping at the church, performing baptisms, weddings or memorials, or making any pastoral visits. I will be observing these guidelines once my pastorship ends with you on Sunday, January 8, 2023. 

Many have asked if Sue and I will be staying in the area and what our next chapter looks like. In short, we have some travel planned for the first quarter of 2023 to Cancun, the Holy Land and Colombia. Later next year, we plan to move out of the state. There will be time for reading, reflection, writing, hopefully some hiking with Sue and our dog Maggie and certainly time with the Holy. 

I will close this letter to you with the words often used in my Benedictions—Go In Peace and Walk In Love. God would have it no other way. 


Pastor Patty

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