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Grateful reflections on three years as your Interim Minister

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.” – Anatole France

This month of June will be my last one with you at UCV, then I will be moving on and you will prepare to receive Rev. Shawn Gauthier as your new Settled Minister.  The past 3 years feel as they have been both long and short, as many complex journeys and relationships are.  We have been through a pandemic together, weathered unexpected storms and also great healing and discovery. We have held steady relative to the wider world of religious bodies during the challenges, and this community is emerging renewed, strengthened and hopeful, even if a bit bruised in places.

I am looking back over our time together and re-reading notes I took from those many first conversations, back when we could only meet on Zoom.  I asked almost 100 people the same five questions: Who are you? What do you love about UCV? What could change here? What should I know to begin this ministry? Who should I talk to to impact change?

These conversations helped to frame the work that we have done together, and were also the beginning of some deeply meaningful relationships. We have done many things, many hard and many joyful things. It has been an honour and privilege to help UCV navigate the transitions and changes that will help give meaning and depth to people’s lives and to prepare your path forward to your next chapter.

As I move into my own time of transition after being with people in theirs, so many feelings are alive in my heart. I feel the sadness that comes with having to let go – relationships that touched my heart are coming to an end among people who honoured me by welcoming me into their lives, allowing to grieve with them their losses and to celebrate and rejoice in their blessings. We have shared our lives with one another in deeply meaningful ways. I have witnessed children growing into teens and teens into adults. I have seen incredible generosity of spirit and openness as well as impatience and fear exhibited in less healthy ways. I have seen people come and go as they are nourished and called in different ways. Through all of it, we have known that my time with you would come to an end.  An interim minister, a colleague of mine writes, is like a harbour pilot, navigating the congregation through a temporary harbour during a time of reflecting, retooling, provisioning and staffing for the next sea adventure. It is a partnership with the vessel’s crew and the harbour pilot, and their mutual success is ultimately a function of communication and trust. Things haven’t been perfect in those areas, we have had particular challenges during this transition time, and we have also done some amazing things together.

You are resilient, beautiful and deeply caring people. My hope is that you will continue to lean into your covenant with one another to break down the barriers of personal relationships and build towards a truly shared vision of the promise of this community. I hope you may let go of lingering fears and open your hearts to one another.

I will be leaving UCV grateful to have been here with you, to have had this chance to know, to love and to grow with you along this journey. I am confident that you know yourselves better, who you are, what you love about UCV, what needs to change so you can thrive, how to support your next ministry and the people who need to shape it.

As every interim minister knows, serving as a harbour pilot is a privilege, and a time will come to wish the congregation fair winds and many blessings ahead. A ship in harbour is safe – but that is not what ships were built for. Happy sailing, UCV.

Many Blessings,

Rev. Lara Cowtan