Our chats never fail to generate what folks in the business world might call "robust" interactions. In this post, the Rev. Canon Dan Webster (@RevWeb), a Episcopal priest in Baltimore, MD, provides information about a liturgical solution to ease transitions and maintain professional boundaries between clergy and congregants.
Last week’s chat focused on professional and personal boundaries in social media. I mentioned how when I left a congregation as vicar, I would "unfriend" parishioners on my Facebook page. “When you leave, you leave,” I tweeted. Not everyone agrees.
Tone can sometimes appear unduly harsh in 140 characters, so I referred @mapowell to the Episcopal Church’s Book of Occasional Services and “A Service for the Ending of a Pastoral Relationship and Leave-taking from a Congregation.”
This service gives faith communities a liturgical opportunity to honor their time with a departing pastor. Directions for the service encourage the pastor to “express thanksgiving for the time of the tenure, with its joys and sorrows, and state hopes for the future of the congregation.”
The new rector deserves every opportunity to become pastor to members of the congregation, especially in parishes where there has been a long term pastorate. A helpful resource on the Episcopal Diocese of New York website about the value of a healthy ending includes this:
“A good beginning depends on a good ending. Your parish's ability to call your successor depends on how well you leave and on your ability to let go. Your character and integrity are demonstrated in how you leave a position. These are not commandments, rubrics or rules. They are collected wisdom, good practices and occasional humor about an important moment in the life of every ordained person, a moment of celebration, of ending, of beginning, of death, and of resurrection.Just as pastors are required to keep healthy boundaries during their tenure, they are required to do so after taking their leave.