713-528-6665   ---   1805 W ALABAMA, HOUSTON, TX 77098 --- SUNDAY WORSHIP AT 8:30 AM & 10:30 AM    --- info@ststephenshouston.org

One of the skills I admire in others is the ability to set limits on time.  I stand in awe of people who can say clearly at the outset of a conversation, “I have a hard stop in 30 minutes.”  Knowing what the ‘hard stop’ is enables the participants in the discussion to be clear and concise.  The conversation may go on longer, but one of the parties can only be expected to be there within the declared time.  In the words of Bishop Doyle, “Clarity is kindness.”

As I am preparing to retire from my position as rector of St. Stephen’s, folks have asked me if I can be called upon for friendship, counsel, sacraments.  These are each a dimension of a pastoral relationship.  The Clergy Manual of the Diocese of Texas is quite clear on this point.  It states:

Pastoral Relationships after Transition

Questions about clergy transition, including the expression of interest in transitioning within the Diocese of Texas, are properly directed to the Diocesan Transition Minister.  The Bishop expects that once a clergyperson leaves a congregation, he or she will bring closure to pastoral relationships with members of that congregation. The health of the congregation is dependent upon how well the transition is managed.

Former parishioners should understand from the clergy in a positive and affirming way that it is not appropriate to continue a pastoral relationship. The Bishop expects that the clergyperson will accept no further requests from members and former members of the congregation to provide pastoral services at weddings, funerals, baptisms, or any other occasion of public worship until at least one year after the new rector arrives.

After one year, clergy may accept invitations from the rector but may not solicit such invitations.

This means that my retirement is a hard stop to our pastoral relationship for the health of St. Stephen’s.  I cannot be asked to officiate at sacramental life events until at least one year after the new rector arrives and even then, I may only be asked by the new rector to share in those occasions.

This may feel harsh and abrupt; after all we have shared life together for 18 years and it causes grief to be separated.  This is especially difficult for me as Bruce and I will remain in Houston.  Pastoral relationships are wonderful and peculiar.  While we are friendly with one another, we are not friends—there is an inequality in power and a difference in role.  I have been in a unique relationship with you in that while I often know deeply personal dimensions of your life, you do not know my life.  This critical distance allows me to hear your confession, counsel you in sickness, rejoice with your transformation.  What a privilege it has been to serve you in this way.

On May 19, my last day as your rector, I will have a hard stop.  While I am generally not one who sets these kinds of limits, I know my responsibility to you and to the well being of this beloved community.  I will miss you and I cherish you.

-Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector