Maintaining healthy boundaries is an important part of every minister’s vocation. Ministers are entrusted with intimate details about parishioners’ lives. Appropriate boundaries at the time of a minister’s departure are also important. It is essential for the health of the congregation that they are able to devote themselves to forming a relationship with the incoming Pastor without the shadow of the departing Pastor getting in the way. The Ethical Code for Ministers defines what healthy boundaries should be adhered to when a minister leaves a congregation:
* The departing Pastor will no longer be available to the congregation or affiliated persons for weddings, baptisms, funerals, church activities, pastoral care, etc. Continuing to provide pastoral care interferes with the ministry of one’s successor and is a violation of the UCC Ministerial Code.
* Prior to a Pastor’s departure, their administrator duties for church-related social media spaces and accounts, will be transferred to a designated member of the congregation.
* When a departing Pastor finds a church in our new location, their membership will be transferred to that congregation. Their ministerial standing will be transferred to the Association in which that church is located.
* Though difficult, it is strongly recommended as a best practice for the departing pastor to end any social media connections with congregants and others with whom they’ve had a pastoral relationship. Following a period of 1-3 years, pastors may discern whether they will begin to accept “Friend” requests from former congregants. Former Pastors should not initiate Friend requests with former congregants and must continue to refrain from providing pastoral care to former congregants.
At every departure, there is a mixture of emotions (including grief) for both the Pastor and congregation. When a minister retires from a church, the grief is magnified according to the number of relationships formed during the years of shared ministry. There will be intentional opportunities for us to say our goodbyes to one another and celebrate all that we have accomplished together in service to our Lord (including a special worship service of transition on May 22) without compromising your welcoming of your new Pastor. I treasure the journey we have taken together these last nine years and look forward to the good things God has planned for Sue and me in my retirement. I am excited as well, for the new horizons of ministry that God has in store for this church with your next Pastor.
Grace and Peace,