One of the hardest things about moving from one church to another is keeping the secret that a move is in the works. It’s uncomfortable ─ that period of time when you and your spouse are discerning a call to a new congregation, or for United Methodists, when you’ve been informed that you’re moving but your church hasn’t yet heard. It seems like every move results in some type of awkward interaction with members of our congregation during that secret time. During one of these times I had a sweet, elderly lady some up to me after church on Sunday and take my hand. She patted it and said, “I hope you don’t ever move, I just love you husband’s preaching.” How do you respond to that?
I know that keeping the news under wraps is important until decisions have been finalized and announcements have been made, but I often find myself feeling a bit dishonest. I suppose that is because we try our best to always be authentic and honest with our church family, and it feels foreign to keep something under wraps that is going to change their lives. Or, for others, it maybe that you’ve been wanting to move for a long time. Trying to hide the feelings of relief that it’s finally going to happen can feel uncomfortable, phony, and self-conscious.
Whatever the reason you might feel uncomfortable about keeping your upcoming move a secret, those of us in ministry have to learn to accept and deal with this awkward time as an occasional part of our lives. I tend to deal with it by reducing my contact with the congregation in the hopes of avoiding difficult conversations. It also helps to have somebody who you trust to keep confidences who you can talk to about your moving process. If you can get your anxieties out with a “safe” person, you’re less likely to have it spill out at inopportune times. That said, you can’t plan ahead for all the possible scenarios and conversations that come up. Sometimes you just have to wing it – like when you avoid responding to a little old lady by diverting the conversation into how blessed you are to be part of the church family for as long as the bishop allows you to be appointed there. But hopefully you will find ways to gracefully (and as honestly as possible) get through those few weeks.