At the End of a Pastorate

Pastoring:  it’s like adopting a family, ready-made,
that includes seniors as well as children, with adults of every age:
you make a commitment to love each one.
As a pastor you dive into the deep-end,
welcomed in, not just to the edge, but to the centre.
You listen to the joyfullest joys, the wretchedest sorrows;
you laugh with those who laugh
and weep with those who weep.
You watch couples come up the aisle to be married,
you hold newborn babies in your arms, hours old.
You grasp hands in emergency rooms,
you are a shoulder to lean on at the graveside,
your head bows as you pray with the confused.
Each Sunday, your eyes scan the congregation in worship,
seeking out each face and reading them.
And always you use your voice: words of comfort,
words of counsel, words of hope, words of challenge.
Your heart is full and heavy with the responsibility
of leading and loving, and you struggle to find the exact balance
of sacrifice and self-care that sustains you in this work.
And you are not alone, you are a pastor among pastors,
just as this is a community among communities.
You draw strength from the bigger body,
learning how to be faithful in the particularities
of this time and this place.
Meeting by meeting, sermon by sermon,
bible study by bible study, service by service,
the years pass, and you know the church family as your own.
Until the day comes when the time is accomplished,
and you feel God nudging you to leave the role.
Gently you let go of this responsibility and that one,
you say your good-byes, you hear the thank yous.
On this threshold of retirement [leaving] you realize
that what is done is done,
and what is not done is not done,
you did your best.
There are memories to be savoured,
and difficult stories that you will ponder
as you take stock of God’s grace.
Look! The door opens.
Listen! It’s God calling you
from the pages of your next chapter.

New Book Coming Soon!

Carol Penner has written a devotional book for Lent that explores the challenges of repentance and forgiveness. Forty reflections and prayers to deepen your walk with God as you prepare for Easter.  

You can order it here!

About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at

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