To all God’s beloved at Trinity,
I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace given to us by God in Christ Jesus; I rejoice at every moment we have seen and see Christ in one another and in every person we meet and seek out in Christ’s Name. I give thanks for the times we endured and listened to Christ among and within and when we dared to go to places only God could lead us. I am humbled by the privileges of pastoral and priestly invitation and trust you have given me at tender moments in your lives. I am gladdened by the fellowship and care we have shared in this community and in the world. I am made better by you and the shared ministry God has called us to in these 20 years and I am deeply grateful. You are very dear to me.
I will say more as the weeks unfold and particularly as we gather on December 18th. I want to thank our wardens, parish leadership including our Visioning chairs, Management Team and staff for their unwavering and steadfast commitment to God’s call and to all of us. There is more ahead and they are embracing it with faithfulness, trust and excitement for what God is calling this community to as it follows God out into the neighborhood.
You will read in the ECCT Leaving Well Policy that “the wellbeing of the priest and parish require that we work together to bring closure to all relationships (this includes seeking healthy closure to relationships that have been life giving as well as those that have been challenging)”. I pray that we will seek to do this in ways that honor Christ in each other and leave gladness, gratefulness and healing in our hearts. It also reads that I cannot, in any way, participate in the selection of my successor. I have NO desire to do so and I will not engage with anyone in such conversation. Additionally the policy states that after the departure date, I will no longer function in any way as a pastor or priest to those affiliated with Trinity. Specifically I am not permitted to officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals for any person(s) who are affiliated with Trinity or stay in touch by any means including social media. It is when these policies are ignored that the health of the departing priest, the parish and the new priest is harmed and I would never want that for us. There is much more in this document that speaks to my leaving well and leaving you well and ready to invite a new pastor and priest into your lives as you have so graciously done for me and the 24 rectors and countless curates before. I am so glad that you will have The Rev. Salin Low with you as supply priest to walk with you through this transition time, care for you, share sacrament, worship and weekly life among you until your next priest is called to have the holy privilege of being your priest and pastor.
As you transition, I will be transitioning as well. I leave in late December to become the priest, pastor and provost for the people of God who are the congregation at Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis. It will be because the Dean before me and the people of the cathedral congregation ended their pastoral relationship well that I and they can become the community God is calling us to be and that I can fully be their priest and pastor as I have been to you.
I will hold you dear always, cherish all that God has done among and between us, and carry with me the extraordinary gifts you have given into my life and the lives of Shep, Sarah and Myles.
I look forward to our conversations, hugs, liturgies, and celebrations in these next weeks and give thanks to God always for each and every one of you.
In Christ’s love,
Liturgical Farewell on Sunday, December 18
During our 9:30 a.m. Church Service, we will be saying our Liturgical Farewell using the “Liturgy for the Ending of a Pastoral relationship”. We urge everyone to attend and be a part of this service. Later this same day, we will be holding our Farewell Party – more details will soon be forthcoming but we urge everyone to set this afternoon aside so that you can be part of this festive celebration of Pastor Kathie’s time at Trinity. While Kathie will be serving on the altar on both December 24th and 25th, these days will not be the time to say goodbye as the focus will be on the birth of Christ.
If you would like to assist in the planning of Pastor Kathie’s Farewell Celebration, please contact one of the wardens directly.
Visit by the Cannon for Mission Leadership on Sunday, January 8
The Rev. Lee Ann Tolzmann, the Cannon for Mission Leadership, will be with us during our 9:30 a.m. Sunday Service to explain the Transition Process and to answer any questions you might have during a meeting after the service. She will also be with us for the Adult Formation hour, after the service, to explain more details and to answer questions. Please make every effort to attend this day so that you can hear directly about the process. For those of you who have been through a Rector Search in the past, it will be interesting to find out how the process has changed and streamlined and what alternatives the ECCT might suggest to a lengthy search process.
Some of you have expressed an interest in being a part of the future Discernment Process or Search Committee. We are deeply grateful to you for your interest in being part of the future life at Trinity Newtown; no decisions about the process will be made until after the January 8 meeting.
Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 15
Please join us for our Annual Meeting during the 9:30 a.m. service as we affirm our life together and begin to more fully reimagine what is next for us as a Parish.
Greetings to our Parish Family,
We have all had a few weeks to absorb the news of Pastor Kathie’s acceptance of the call to be the Provost at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis. We know that you, like us, are overjoyed at this new adventure and place that God has called Kathie and Shep to. We are, at the same time, concerned about what God is calling Trinity to moving forward and how and when this will unfold. The ongoing life at Trinity Newtown will continue and God will certainly bless us abundantly during this time of transition!
As your wardens, we met with our Bishop and the Cannon for Mission Leadership at the ECCT to discuss the Transition Process. We want to update you about what we learned and what is planned over the coming months. First and foremost, Pastor Kathie is our Rector until her departure at the end of December. Over the coming weeks, please take the time to individually share a few last words with Pastor Kathie and to tie up any outstanding concerns you might have with her. However, please also understand that this will be an extremely busy time for Pastor Kathie as she prepares to move and schedule any meetings accordingly.
On the back of this sheet, please note some upcoming dates and mark your calendars for these very important events related to Pastor Kathie’s departure and the Transition Process itself.
Beginning Sunday, January 1, The Rev. Salin Low will be serving as our Supply priest. We came to know and care for Salin when she served during Pastor Kathie’s sabbatical and we are gladdened to have a very familiar face with us during the time of transition.
Over the coming weeks as you have questions, your Wardens will be available in the front of the church after Sunday services to answer them. Or, if you would prefer, please contact us directly so that we can speak with you. We will keep you updated as we know anything more.
Lastly, we have enclosed a copy of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s Leaving Well Policy. Please take some time to read this as it is important that we all establish and maintain new boundaries during this transition process. There is also a great deal of other information contained on the ECCT website about the Transition Process.
We believe that God is calling Trinity to a new and exciting journey as we follow Him into our neighborhood! (or should we say Journey) We look forward to sharing this journey as it unfolds with all of you.
Forry Weatherby and Ellen Melville
When a Priest Leaves an ECCT Parish or Worshiping Community
When a priest leaves an ECCT parish or other worshiping community, both the priest and the congregation must establish and maintain new boundaries. In addition, certain tasks are required for an orderly transition. The health of both the departing priest and the congregation are greatly affected by how well the transition is managed.
During ordination to the priesthood, the bishop instructs priests to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and the life to come. A priest’s intentionality around leaving a congregation is the last significant opportunity to nourish Christ’s people who have been in their care.
When a priest’s departure is announced, the remaining work is to have an orderly and appropriate “good-bye” from the parish. Then, after the priest’s departure, both the congregation and the priest can live fully into reimagining what is next for their lives.
The following are the bishops’ expectations and ECCT policy governing how priests are to leave a parish or other worshiping community in Connecticut.
Before departure the priest:
Communicates in writing and verbally to all members of the parish that:
Plans with lay leaders a liturgy to mark closure of relationships and the priest’s departure. Considers inviting a bishop or canon to participate in such a service using a service found in the Book of Occasional Services. A version of the liturgy without diocesan representatives is also available, from the Canon for Mission Leadership.
Avoids being named rector, priest, or associate emeritus. The canons do not provide for such honorary titles, and this practice, besides being intrinsically confusing, is not grounded in seeking health and wholeness as both priest and parish move on.
In addition to not participating in the selection of their successor, the priest may not provide any advice or opinions regarding the search for a new priest, particular candidates, the process itself, etc.
If the departing priest is rector:
Before a rector informs parish leadership of the intention to resign, the rector must first inform the bishops.
An exit interview is scheduled with the Canon for Mission Leadership, and the rector provides all requested documents for that interview.
Before departure, the parish:
Works to bring all relationships to healthy closure, both individually and corporately. It is important to find ways to celebrate the ministry shared between the priest and congregation.
Respects the privacy of the priest’s office space (unless the departure is due to malfeasance). No one should be allowed access to the priest’s office before confidential and sensitive files can be destroyed or handed to designated parish leaders.
Gives the priest, while still employed, permission to allow the staff to offer time and assistance in removing personal items from the office. The priest may instead prefer to do this after hours and on their own.
Lay leaders plan with the priest a liturgy to mark closure of relationships and the priest’s departure. Leaders may consider inviting a bishop or canon to participate in such a service using a service found in the Book of Occasional Services. A version of the liturgy without diocesan representatives is also available, from the Canon for Mission Leadership.
After departure the priest:
Does not attend any official parish function, including worship.
Does not engage or discuss any pastoral liturgies and refers any requests for special liturgies from parishioners to the current priest or bishop.
Avoids triangulation and involvement in parish decisions, and refrains from attending social functions that are attended mostly by parishioners.
Avoids discussions of concerns about the parish with parishioners, and refers such to the current priest.
Informs the current parish priest of conversations with former parishioners who make any request, seek advice or pastoral care.
Disengages from all parish-based social media platforms.
Disengages from all social media interactions with those affiliated with the parish.
Avoids participating in or commenting on activities of past, current and future clergy, including on social media.
If retired, is available for supply or interim work as the need arises in other ECCT parishes.
Nurture their worship and devotional life by attending other parishes.
If retired, continues to attend clergy meetings and retreats; participates in diocesan ministries; faithfully uses their experience and wisdom in service to the church.
Does not return to the parish unless invited by the current parish priest in consultation with a bishop. An invitation may be made after the new priest has been in place for a full year, and not before.
After departure the parish:
Supports the priest and their family in detaching from the parish by respecting the policy requiring the priest to keep a distance, thus allowing all to transition to new roles. Continuing inclusion may be cause for pain rather than encouragement toward the new reality and development of new boundaries. Intention is necessary not to engage the priest and family.
Ensures that the priest’s parish e-mail accounts are closed and proper forwarding information displayed. For a short time (90 days or less), some emails may be forwarded.
Updates the website with the new information.
Changes passwords for accounts and gets new signature cards.
Ensures that staff has specific handling instructions for post office mail. Mail for the parish, addressed to the priest will continue to arrive for many months. Discretion in opening mail is critical, and all mail addressed to the parish is the responsibility of the parish to handle.
If /when a priest returns to the parish:
The new priest and the former priest may discuss and decide the nature of presence and participation in the life of the parish. Any conversation about the re-entry of the former or retired priest may not occur before the one-year anniversary of the new priest having established their authority in the life of the parish and must be in consultation with a bishop.
The bishops and ECCT staff is the avenue through which pastoral care will be provided for the leaving or retired priest and family.
The priest’s family:
The family of the priest, who may have engaged in ministry in or out of the parish, is now in the delicate situation of having to deal with the new dynamic created by the priest’s departure and the requirements laid out in this policy. It has been painful for some to let go because their parish ministry and connections formed both because of their relationship to the priest as well as apart from that. Experience has taught that withdrawal from these activities is best.
For the wellbeing of the parish, the priest’s spouse/partner must refrain from criticism of the vestry, staff, and new priest and avoid being drawn into triangulation with members of the parish in any and all interactions, including through social media.
When a former parish priest remains in the vicinity:
When a priest leaves or retires and plans to remain in the vicinity of the last parish served, new roles and boundaries must be developed for the retired priest, for the priest’s family, and for the members and staff of the parish. These above policies address that transition.