Findlay Street/Welcome Table Christian Church marked the beginning of 2015 with the retirement of Joan Dennehy, our beloved pastor of 221⁄2 years. We celebrated her ministry with three events: an evening soiree and a final worship service and potluck. The events were well attended and provided an opportunity for people to express their love and appreciation for Joan and her wife and longtime church member, Barb Graff.
Former and current church members and friends mingled and munched at the evening gathering, enjoying the chance to relax with each other and to enjoy the downtown skyline and harbor view from the Bayview Retirement Community venue (home of Dottie Neufeld). The formalities were kept to a minimum: “Happy Trails” was sung, blessings were exchanged and Joan and Barb made brief remarks. Joan described her current journey as “swinging on a trapeze about to jump from one bar to another” and Barb reflected on her history with Findlay and how she first attended shortly after Bernice Burns, our elder emeritus, prayed for new members.
On Sunday, Joan preached her finale sermon on Grace and Al Terry, Rev. Dr. Ruth Fletcher, Rev. Laurie Rudel, Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, and Rev. Sandy Messick spoke on “How God has been at work during Joan’s ministry.” Curt Williams and Rev. Dr. Mary Donovan Turner conducted the Litany of Farewell and church members and Joan pledged to “part and trust the future...with the help of God.”
During the service, Joan gifted the church with a stained glass window (salvaged from First Christian Church/DOC), metal candlesticks, a pottery bowl and a painted icon from Israel. The church gifted Joan and Barb with a garden Peace Pole, t-shirts for both Findlay Street and Welcome Table, flowers and a necklace designed by church member Sandi Renner with beads collected from the congregation. We also assured Joan she did not have to worry about locking the church doors that day.
It was a tough moment for many when Barb helped Joan remove her stole and tears flowed as Joan served communion to each person in line. And then, after a beautiful postlude by our pianist Reid Wolch of M. Mussorgsky’s “Great Gate of Kiev,” it was time to eat...something we really like to do at Welcome Table. Ann Polansky and Brent Long organized the delicious and nourishing meal.
Since the festivities, members have shared thoughts and feelings about life A.J. (“After Joan”). Carol Baker, baptized at Findlay in 1948, said she has seen twelve “settled” ministers come and go. Brent Long also has a church history with multiple pastors. For others, Joan was their only or main pastor. Members expressed sadness and gratitude and some said they were still in denial. Retired pastor Marvin Eckfeldt said time on our own without a pastor can be a good opportunity for members to “get to know one another more—to grieve and evolve together.”
One suggestion at the final worship service was to focus on being glad for the time we had with Joan instead of feeling sad that she is leaving. However, Joan has helped us learn to be comfortable with duality—with both/and instead of either/or. We are both glad and sad; we will miss Joan and Barb and embrace the future as we walk down separate paths. We love Joan and Barb and are allowing them space to create new stories. AND...God will be with us until we meet again!