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The Rev. Dr. Emily C. Heath The Rev. Emily Heath

The Rev. Dr. Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire (UCC), and a writer and public theologian. She is the author of 'Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity' (Pilgrim Press).

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The Congregational Church in Exeter UCC, Exeter, NH

Emily C. Heath: Holding on a Little Too Tight

November 14, 2017

Then the Lord said to Moses: "It's almost time for you to die. Summon Joshua. The two of you must present yourselves at the meeting tent so I can command him." - Deuteronomy 31:14

I hope that my death is still many years away. Age and actuarial tables tell me that's probably true, but you never really know. Friends and classmates I thought I'd grow old with have been lost in the blink of an eye. I don't live in fear or anxiety, but I do know that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

One of the temptations many pastors fall into is to be the only person in a church to know how everything works. I confess that I do this. I know how to get up into the steeple, fix the copier, order the confirmation Bibles, and update the website. I also know who is in which hospital, where the communion servers should stand, and how many deacons we will need Christmas Eve.

One day a few years ago I realized that this was not the mark of a conscientious pastor. This is the mark of a control freak. The question I've begun to ask myself is this, "If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, would this church be able to do this thing I'm doing now?"

If the answer is "yes", then that's a good sign. I've understood that ministry is a shared calling. If it's "no", then I need to remind myself that, as recovery communities sometimes say, "There is a God, and I'm not it." 

This isn't just a pastor thing. Almost every church has one person who is the only person in the church who knows how to do something important. If the proverbial bus runs them over tomorrow, what happens next? 

God didn't mince words with Moses. God let Moses know that his time was coming. And so, Moses raised up Joshua to take his place, and to learn the ropes before it was too late. I think God and Moses were onto something there. 


God, your church is new in every age. Help us to let go, and invite the next generation in. Amen.

From UCC's StillSpeaking devotionals

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