My wife is always amazed at how many things that I'm capable of forgetting. We're not just talking about forgetting to pick up milk on the way home, we're talking about important experiences from my childhood or from our early lives as a couple. Things are vivid memories to her. Conversely, there are experiences that I have strong memories of that she seems to have no recollection.
Brain researchers tell us that the things we all have less trouble remembering are those things which have impacted us powerfully in an emotional way, both in positive and negative ways. They say that strong emotions intensify memories in something called your "episodic memory."
A little over two years ago, I had the honor of speaking to the congregation at the installation ceremony of Pastor Mark Mueller at First Presbyterian Church of Valparaiso. I remember it well; I suppose because of the strong emotions of the moment, the fear of public speaking combined with the joy I was feeling as I began:
"For me, today is an incredibly joyful day! Today is joyful because of this chance to participate in the Installation of Pastor Mark, but also joyful because through my participation in our pastoral search committee and throughout these first few months of Mark's ministry here, I've had the chance to experience God's work not only within the PNC and our church, but also the chance to more fully reflect on his work in my own life."
In a few more days, as a congregation and as individuals, we will have one last opportunity to bid farewell to Pastor Mark and Pastor Toby. Although their parting comes sooner than I had hoped, I'm 100% sure that had I known then what I know now, I would still have made the same decisions as a member of the PNC. Were it any other way, I would not have experienced the joy of introducing Mark and Toby to our community, getting to know them, and worshipping with them at our church.
As we look forward to the next few weeks of transition, let's all remember that it's important to face the upcoming challenges with love and kindness for each other. This is but a fleeting moment for our congregation, a moment that we will remember not so much by the circumstances of Mark and Toby's departure, but rather by the experiences that we share and the emotional support that we offer to each other as we turn the page to the next chapter in the life of our congregation. I have all the faith in the world that, perhaps sooner than you think, we will all be sharing the joys of welcoming a new pastor, and that's what we will remember most vividly as we look back a few years from now.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!