As I write this note to you I am sitting on our deck remembering many summers in Seattle when it never got as warm as it is today. I sit out here whenever possible because I treasure the greenery that surrounds the deck; rhododendrons, Douglas fir trees, cedar trees, a volunteer Japanese maple and one old native Dogwood tree all make it seem like we live in a retreat center.
One spring, a few years ago when I was cleaning the deck, I began sweeping up dried, wrinkled leaves. It was odd because I associated the sound of swept and crinkled leaves with fall, not spring — had I missed a season somewhere along the line?
The arborist was coming by to make his regular assessment of the fir trees and I asked him about the leaves I had found. Turns out our native dogwood had contracted a disease which is often fatal to the tree. There was not much to do about it but watch and wait.
Then, a year and a half ago, we had to take down two of the 130 foot fir trees due to laminated root rot. Fir trees with laminated root rot look okay but below ground the roots are gradually falling apart, actually de-laminating. Above ground you might notice changes in the crown of the tree but up at that height it can be difficult to spot without binoculars. With the help of alert neighbors (believe me, no one wants these fir trees to fall on their home) and confirmation by the arborist we arranged to have a tree service come and take them out. At the suggestion of the arborist we left two 12 and 15 foot tall snags for the flickers, woodpeckers, squirrels, birds and bats to make homes and find food.
And this is what I noticed sitting on the deck this afternoon: over the last year and a half the dogwood has recovered. Without the two fir trees crowding it out, the dogwood gets more light and the air freely circulates around its branches. Even as we mourned the loss of those two fir trees a spirit of renewal was quietly at work within our little forest.
And so it was that I found myself pondering the dogwood and the fir trees as I contemplated my upcoming retirement in February 2017. Without drawing too close a parallel I sense that my retirement will allow the spirit of God’s renewing and abundant love to open new avenues of creative service, worship and learning within Queen Anne Christian Church. And I have a similar sense of God’s renewing spirit for myself as well.
Make no mistake, the decision to retire in no way lessens my deep love for this community of faith. Over the next nine months we have a chance to appreciate one another, to laugh together, to remember, and to plan our futures. It will be a time of gradually loosening bonds as you begin the process of calling a new interim pastor and I begin to let go of my role as pastor. I doubt it will be painless on either end but my sense is that this shift will also be liberating and restorative, that God is already at work within us.
Meanwhile I’m keeping this quote from the Native American community close to my heart: “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” Filled with gratitude for each of you I, indeed, give thanks.