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Grace & Gratitude in Goodbyes

By Wendy Weiss, Programs & Membership Coordinator

As my last day as staff at Westside approaches, I find my thoughts full of reminiscences. Six years ago, almost to the day in 2015, I was overjoyed with just having been hired as DRE, my dream job in so many ways. I was so looking forward to working in this congregation and applying my professional skills in ways that truly matter to me. What I found immediately is that Westside is a congregation of heart. I couldn’t have anticipated all that I would learn or how this people-centered profession would mature my relating and relationships.

My greatest joys have been all the fun we’ve had in the Children’s Religious Exploration program—from the RE Kids Club on Sundays and holiday events, to going to GA with our Youth Group, to hosting larger and larger groups of campers at Summer Wizarding Camp (affectionately known as Hogwarts back in the day). One of the things that has always touched my heart is the support of incredibly dedicated and skilled volunteers in the RE Program. I always felt so lucky to have their expertise and spirit and humor.

Even in the days we were up to our eyeballs during summer camp, we always, always laughed together. I’m truly grateful to have known and learned from such amazing people like Cindy Arnold, Beth Sandidge, Linda Chavez (who were also on the hiring committee and conducted my interview) and Brad and Beth Kurtz, Grechen Wingerter, and Anne Harvey. They were such steady volunteers, the core of the camp and RE program, along with Lorie Allion in the Spirit Play classroom. So many others were regular volunteers or tried their hand for a time. I was always so impressed with who would show up and their willingness to lend a hand. Every one of them made my job, the work of it, incredibly satisfying.

I am grateful to the entire congregation who warmly received some new traditions I brought with me: the Winter Solstice Spiral, Labyrinth Services, and more interactive, creative and participatory kinesthetic elements to our worship together. It’s truly been an honor also to welcome in new members and help them find meaningful connections of their own within our congregation. I have loved being involved in the Adult RE offerings as well and working on issues of social justice in our local community.

This is why in many ways I’m not saying goodbye. I will continue to be a part of Westside. As my path takes me on new adventures, I will be traveling for a few months. So while I will be physically away for a time, I’ll still be connected in some way. We’ll all need a little time to navigate the transition and get to know what it means for me to no longer be a staff member, but a congregational member of Westside.

I think this is the part I’m most looking forward to though. As I said on Sunday, even though I’ve worked for Westside, I also felt that you took me in as one of your own. You created a work environment that was warm, welcoming, comfortable, and flexible. When Rev. Carol and I first met and she told me about this job opening up, she said two things that have carried me through all these years: “When you find the right person, you adapt the job description to fit them,” and “This is an opportunity for Westside to provide a ministry to you.” I had never thought about employment in those terms before, had never been offered such grace in my work. Working with Rev. Carol has deepened my understanding of just how we minister to each other and how meaningful this is in community.

I’m so grateful to be able to continue on with Westside in a way that nurtures all of us, to continue to be a part of the ministry of Westside that is its relationships and work together. So, since this is not goodbye, may we all fare well in our new roles with each other, especially as we continue to move forward together.

I’ll leave us with these words for our hearts, Reading 688 from our gray hymnal:

Hold on to what is good,

even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe,

even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do,

even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to my hand,

even when I have gone away from you.

- Nancy Wood

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