What an Interim Minister Leaves Behind: A few weeks ago, the first minister my family met at the congregation my parents still attend passed away. Her name was Rev. Cynthia Ward and she had a huge influence on my life. She gave my parents the spiritual home and foundation to raise three kids in the UU faith. She even did my baby dedication ceremony after I was born. She left the congregation shortly after I was born, but my parents knew she would. After all, she was an interim minister.
Fast forward 26 years, and here I am saying goodbye to our interim minister, Rev. Margret A. O’Neall, as she leaves to work with a new congregation as closely and diligently as she did with ours. I thank the universe for this beautiful, circular rhythm in my life, that the hands that held me as a child did the same work as the hands that helped shaped me in my first congregation as a director of religious education.
There is something very special about ministers who go into interim work. They enter a congregation knowing how close they will need to get with the members of the congregation in order to do the work and also knowing that they will need to leave these people they’ve connected with. It is admirable, noble work.
After Rev. Cynthia Ward left my home congregation, Rev. David Bryce came and continued the work Cynthia started. More members joined as the years went on, and though they never met Cynthia, they were working on the foundation she built.
It’s not true that interim ministers leave. Sure, Margret will pack up and leave Schenectady to go to her next adventure with her next congregation. And yes, following best practices, Margret will not be in communication with us so we can connect with Rev. Wendy and Rev. Lynn. Still, there is no doubt that Margret’s work will always stay with this congregation, even as new members who will never meet her join the congregation. Every time a new team forms, Margret is with us. Every time we challenge ourselves to build the plane as we fly it, Margret is with us. Every time we have a fire drill, Margret will be exiting the building quickly and quietly with us.
An interim enters a congregation with the intention of leaving, but in actuality they leave a part of themselves in the transformation of the congregation. Even those members who have yet to enter this congregation, who will never meet Margret, will know her. So don’t worry about saying good bye to Margret. She will always be here. –Julie Rigano