I have received a letter from a couple in my congregation, informing me that they won't be back.
My reactions to this letter have interested me. First, I was hesitant to read it, fearing the possibility of painful/ ugly content. (These folks have sent such a letter to someone who has been supportive of me, when she offered to loan them a certain book she'd hoped might be helpful.)
Then, when I did read it, I felt sad. The letter was very kindhearted, and mentioned things about the church and my ministry for which the couple is grateful.
The letter betrayed more ambivalence than I had previously heard from them.
It also expressed their feeling that, in a congregation that is largely supportive of me, they fear how people will feel about them.
I have been wondering about some way of wishing this couple Godspeed in a way that does not say, "don't let the door hit you on your way out." Last night a colleague suggested a letter from the church council expressing gratitude for the gifts and ministry the couple shared while they were with us. That seems good and appropriate.