I had no idea what to expect. I have never said goodbye to 700 best friends before.
This morning I was asked what I thought of last night’s going away celebration and blessing. My response was to say, that, “I never dreamed that I could ever experience anything remotely like that in my lifetime.” So different from other mile markers in life like birthdays, weddings, or graduations—leaving a congregation as a minister is a truly person-focused event with a great deal of sadness and reflection. I thought slideshows and speeches of that quality and scope happened only at funerals! What a gift it is to see yourself through others’ eyes while still very much alive. I never thought I would have that opportunity in my life, and it will stay with me always.
Ministry for me, as I often have said, is about seeing God’s workings in you The People and affirming it and nurturing it. I never take any credit for the ministries that have happened on my watch. That just feels wrong when you all do the work. I describe this work as being a cheerleader of the awe of the Holy Spirit on a playing field of wonder of the capacity of the Holy. Even today, I cannot believe that I have had the privilege to accompany and creatively enable your ministries of love and activism. Thank you, as I heard you say last night, for offering me a small stake in claiming those ministries as my own. I am Deeply Humbled.
I am blessed that my first time of closure to a ministry (this time of leaving Plymouth) has been so well marked with clarity of calling, celebration of mutual gifts, and deep and lasting love. Thank you for the greatest gift of all—a healthy and whole time of sending and leaving! There is no way to put a value on that gift of graciousness and kindness.
Since the vast majority of the financial gifts offered to me, which totaled a VERY generous sum combined, were channeled through the church into one check, I won’t ever know who contributed or how much. This is a blessing because I received that gift of sending with gratitude to everyone equally: the whole congregation.
It does mean that I won’t be able to write my usual hand written thank you notes to each person who gave! I will have to let that go. Do know how profound my gratitude is today for your generosity.
Additionally, in the midst of moving, I might miss a thank you note or two in these times. I might not have the chance to tell each and every one of you how deep my gratitude is for you and what you have shared with me over these years. I might not be able to say in person how much I have loved you and your gifts shared with our community. I might not have that opportunity to tell you thank you before leaving for Connecticut.
Even today, as I pack my office and home into cardboard boxes, I still have no idea what to expect. I have never said goodbye to 700 best friends before. It will be a process, but I am so grateful for our shared ministries and mutual gratitude that transcends the need for even handwritten thank you notes. :)
Speaking of handwritten… I am going to ask that if you choose to stay in contact with me (as we are making a special allowance for Plymouth as my home church) that you consider doing so primarily through handwritten correspondence. First, as a millennial who will be busy with a new call and large congregation, emails get lost and feel like work. Facebook emails are perhaps even worse! The secret is out: millennials hate long narrative emails. Secondly, I love writing handwritten letters.
I cannot write to each of you right now as I wish I could (I did consider writing a note to everyone in the directory, but then my spouse thought that wouldn’t be wise… he was right). Send a postcard of the mountains once in a while and know that Plymouth will always be in my prayers.
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph
122 Broad Street
Guilford, CT 06437
Adieu, Plymouth! Thank you for the opportunity to dream with you and to serve your mission and witness these past nearly five years. It has truly been the gift of a lifetime.
Sincerely in Gratitude,
The Rev. Jake Joseph
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph ("just Jake") came to Plymouth in 2014 having served in the national setting of the UCC on the board of Justice & Witness Ministries, the Coalition for LGBT Concerns, and the Chairperson of the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM). Jake has a passion for ecumenical work and has worked in a wide variety of churches and traditions. As of August 2019, he serves First Congregational Church of Guilford, Connecticut.