Parson to Person – Sweet Sorrow

For those who missed Sunday’s service on “Sweet Sorrow” ~Tony Larsen

I will be retiring as your minister at the end of 2017, probably around Christmas. We all knew this day would come, but it’s a little earlier than I had originally planned (due to recent health issues). I want you to know that I have found these past 40-plus years with you very fulfilling (as well as a lot of fun for the most part!). But at this time in my life, full-time ministry is beginning to get more demanding than I feel ready to handle for the long haul.

Why announce now?
      Our Unitarian Universalist Association recommends that ministers who are planning to retire announce about a year ahead of time. Too much more than a year makes a minister a “lame duck,” unable to accomplish much. Too much less than a year doesn’t give the congregation enough time to get used to the transition, (or to say its good-byes). I chose to retire at the end of 2017 because it would allow me to participate in our church’s 175th anniversary in October. Plus, Christmas seemed as good a time as any to celebrate the gifts we have given each other, and New Year’s seemed as good as any to begin a new era in our church’s life.

So, it is with “Sweet Sorrow” that I have announced my resignation at the end of this year. Sorrow because I will be sad to leave the people and the ministry that I have so enjoyed and found so fulfilling for the past 41 1/2 years. But joy because I got to be part of your lives and ministry for all this time!

I will have more to say in future Parson to Person columns, but let me say one more thing before I finish this one. When I leave my ministry here some of you may feel tempted to leave (just as some who have been gone for a while may feel tempted to come back). Please resist that temptation. I know I would feel pretty bad if a lot of people left the church when I did, because it would signal that my ministry here was not much more than a personality cult, and that people were more Tony-tarian than Unitarian. I would be disappointed to see that because I believe in our church’s future (whether I’m at the helm or not). I believe Racine needs Olympia Brown, just as I believe the world needs Unitarian Universalism. There are a number of good things that happen that would not happen if this church were not here – things that your presence has helped support, even if you couldn’t always be personally involved in them.

When someone comes to me for counseling because their religion has taught them that they are sinful for being gay or lesbian, and I tell them they are worthy just the way they are, and they heave a sigh of relief – you may not be there to hear that sigh but you helped to make it happen.

You are helping to teach children about tolerance and understanding – among races, religions, and cultures – even if you have never taught a Sunday school class. When a searching soul finds the church she or he has been looking for – one where doubts and questions are valued – you have given them that church. And you are giving it to people who will come after you – even some who are not yet born.

There are people in this community who are not members of the church – and probably never would be – who are still glad we exist. (I meet them a lot.) And there are also those who are unhappy that we exist, because their values are at odds with ours. (I meet them too.) This church makes a difference to both groups. And I just want you to know this because sometimes I receive more credit than I deserve. None of this is possible without you, the church, being there (and footing the bill!). And rest assured: People will need this church in the future. So don’t be a Tony-tarian, be a Unitarian. The community, the world, and individuals not yet born need this church.

I just want to thank you for the honor of being able to serve as your pastor for the past 40-plus years. I have no doubt that this church – with your help – will continue to do good ministry in the years ahead.
Along with, of course,

peace and unrest

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