One of the pains we suffer in this life is leaving our church families. Like the families in our own homes, it hurts to leave them. We shouldn’t have to. It doesn’t seem good or right. Ideally, I suppose, a pastor would get to stay at his congregation forever, and parishioners would never leave either.
It’s rare in this life that we find congregations where we really do live as families. I’ve been blessed to be a part of two. The members of Redeemer in Fort Wayne were the first to show me that my fellow church members were, in fact, my family. We celebrated birthdays together, went out to eat together, went ballroom dancing together, and had one another into each other’s homes. We started sharing brunches after church together, coffee after Bible class together, drinks after the 20-somethings got together each month. Later, members even started bringing their holiday meals to church, sharing in food and wine and laughter and song together on Easter and Thanksgiving and Christmas. The congregation was a family, and the family was just that: singles and couples, children and grandmothers, widows and newlyweds.
Leaving Redeemer was awful. My heart ached. I missed my church, my pastor, my family. It hurt like I missed my mom and dad and sisters when I moved away from home for the first time. I was determined not to be in pain that way again.
But last week I left another family, this one at Trinity in Millstadt. While I hadn’t been a part of that congregation for the same amount of time, I knew I was loved and I loved those members of my family in return. They invited me into their homes, sat with me in the pew, checked up on me, and made sure I was well taken care of.
And so when Pastor Kumm, at the last pre-marital counseling session, told me he’d put my transfer to a new congregation, a new family, in process, I started to cry without really knowing why.
But I know now: Leaving is hard. Leaving your family is harder. It shouldn’t have to be. Families shouldn’t be separated in this way, and mothers and fathers and children and pastors shouldn’t have to be apart.
I suppose that’s why heaven is all the sweeter, the place where the entire family of Christ is brought together as one . . . for eternity, never to be parted, never to be separated, never to leave each other again.
And I can’t wait.