Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: The Graceful Exit

Pastors come and go. I was just talking to a pastor who was the 43rd pastor in a parishes' 84 year history, talking about a revolving door!  This is not too uncommon in some areas of the country. Some parishes are known for having many short term pastorates and others are known for much longer and extended pastorates. I know of one pastor who was in the same parish for 54 years!

Saying goodbye is a hard thing to do. Saying goodbye to a child when they leave for college is hard. Saying goodbye to a son or daughter who gets married and starts their own life is hard. Saying goodbye to a friend or loved one who died is hard. And saying goodbye to a parish when you are the pastor is hard. But thanks to the new book by Mary C. Lindberg, leaving a parish might be a little easier. Her knew book The Graceful Exit: A Pastor's Journey from Good-bye to Hello was recently published by the Alban Institute and is a wonderful resource for pastors who are transitioning from either full time ministry to retirement or from full time ministry in one parish to another parish or into some other form of ministry.

The book is a combination of personal narrative as well as well as stories of colleagues who have made these difficult decisions to leave ministry. Pastors are given special access to peoples lives. We visit them in the hospital. We visit them in their homes. We baptize their babies. We bury their dead. We marry them. We walk with them in their walk of faith. Leaving all of that must be terrible difficult. I have never left a parish before so I cannot speak of experience but I have had my own personal leavings of jobs and work and that is also traumatic at times.

Lindberg offers pastors a resource as to how we can better navigate and negotiate these leavings. The book is divided into three parts: The Good Good-bye, The Long Good-bye, and from Good-bye to Hello. Each chapter includes some questions for reflection which I found very helpful. The book is very short at only a little over a hundred pages, you can read it in a few hours. However if you read slowly and actually consider the points for reflection then this book is more of a work book rather than a book that you read once and put down. I encourage pastors to read through this book once quickly and then go back, with a journal in hand in the book in another and actually go through these questions. Even though I am not leaving parish ministry some of the questions for reflection are very enlightening and helpful, especially the ones which deal with lost hopes and fears, with "things left undone" as well as projects and plans which never got off the ground.

One thing pastors have to understand is that when you leave a parish their is grieving that will take place. Your grieving. The grieving of your parishioners. The grieving of your own family. The Graceful Exit will help in this process.

After reading The Graceful Exit I was very grateful to Mary Lindberg for writing this book. However, she now needs to write a complimentary volume on the The Graceful Entrance How Pastors Begin Ministry because so much is left unsaid about how pastors begin their new ministry and enter into a community of faith, how congregations welcome them, and how families can better navigate these issues too!

Kudos to Mary Lindberg for writing such a practical and pastoral book for us pastors out here.

For more information about The Graceful Exit click here