I’m filling in again at Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Lake George this morning.

Last December their Pastor emailed to ask me to fill in for one of the two weeks he was going to be away on a mission trip to Haiti with members of the congregation.

In early February he emailed again to ask if I could do both weeks. That would have been February 16 and 23. If not, he would try to find someone else to do the second week.

When I arrived at the church on February 16 they told me they were especially grateful for my being there, since their Pastor had gone.

“Yes,” I said, “Isn’t it a great opportunity to go to Haiti!”

“No,” they said, “He’s gone for good.”*

“For good?”

“Yes, he left us and moved to Kentucky.”

“Oh,” I said. I gave it a moment to sink in. “Well. Gosh. I’m sorry.”

“We are, too,” they told me. “He was only here a year and a half. Not very long.”

I didn’t say it, but I wish he’d told me that. I’m not sure I would have done things differently. But I might have.

The service went well that day. And it went well the following week, too.

Last week, one of their Elders (members of the governing board) emailed to ask if I’d come back again today. I said, “Of course.”

Ministry is tough. It was his first parish. I don’t blame their now-former pastor for bailing. I feel bad for the congregation that unexpectedly has to scramble through another interim time, going week to week with fill-in preachers. But it’s better he realized that he’d rather not be in pastoral ministry now than to burn out and be miserable for years to come.

As for filling in, I’m finding that it’s much easier than being a pastor. I can do my thing without having to be “in charge” of anything. At the end of the morning’s proceedings, I get to go home without worrying about what happens there during the week.

I can care without having to worry. It’s good.

Very good.