I know it’s a bit unusual to officiate at your former wife’s wedding, but you have to understand that the end of our 33-year marriage was not the end of a relationship. We’ve shared love of two terrific grandchildren, watching them move through their growing-up years—Alex and Hannah will soon be 20 and 17. We share love of our wonderful children who are nudging their way into middle age. (Jonathan turned 40 last week; Susan turns 44 next month.)
We consider ourselves very fortunate to have been able to maintain a loving relationship after the divorce 14 years ago, so the invitation to officiate at Anita’s wedding was a very moving gift.
The wedding went off without a hitch under a tent in my daughter Susan’s back yard in Carlisle. There was a chuppa for the bride and groom to stand beneath to exchange vows, a flaming chalice, wine for a Kiddush–a blessing, and a glass to break at the end of the ceremony.
Each of Anita and Jerry’s children participated, and the grandchildren who were able to be present also participated with readings and songs. Ed Thompson offered his musical talents—he and Anita have maintained their long-term friendship. And everyone breathed a sigh of relief that I was able to carry it off, emotionally.
The day after the wedding, on the first of July, Lory and I drove to the cabin in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, to open it for the summer and spend a few days. That night I got a call from our Board Chair, Allan Wieman, who told me that the Board was having a special meeting the next day to vote on a plan to change our office staffing. The plan, he said, required terminating Jan Braunle’s position, which was very disturbing to me—I wish it didn’t happen at the beginning of the summer when I was away. I wish it didn’t happen at all. Jan is a key person in our office and has done excellent work for eight years. The decision was prompted by two things: the need to balance the budget by combining three jobs into one, and some people’s belief that a new full time staff position will be more efficient.
On the phone from Maine I told Allan, “I think it’s a mistake,” and had to leave it at that. When I got back from Maine I sat down with Allan and talked about the Board’s decision and I wrestled out loud with the question of my role, as Senior Minister. I’ve always tried to find a balance between ministerial and lay leadership. The work of the ministers, as I see it, is to be ministers, not administrators. But there was definitely a ministerial aspect to this decision. I expressed my concern and regret to Jan. That’s the least I could do.
Allan and I also talked about the Board’s proposal for an appropriate process regarding the possible purchase of #3 Sheila Lane, and possibly #5 Sheila Lane when it goes back on the market.
Again, I’ve pondered the question of ministerial leadership with regard to this decision. There are well-meaning members who think it’s an opportunity not to be missed. There are some who don’t agree but don’t feel strongly against it; and there are some who will be very much opposed. The decision-making process must be open and honest. My issue has to do with values and I’ll try to organize my thoughts into a sermon on Homecoming Sunday, which the Board has designated as a time to share information and provide open discussion, and then vote on the proposal at the Annual Meeting on September 22. Stay tuned; remember the suntan lotion.