At our Community Meeting for Highlands Church North Denver on March 10 I said a bit about what had been affecting my sense of being called as a full time co-pastor to our church. At a conference in Chicago I heard a black professor express his exasperation for being invited to one more “progressive Christian” gathering that was attended by mostly white folk. When I heard him, I didn’t feel that my voice was being denigrated but that in the future it may not be needed as much. That was the first sinking feeling of a “gulp!” and “aha!” that I needed to be aware of the need to create space for younger voices than mine, and when possible, from people of color.

I may have had a brief pity party for the old, straight, white guy that I am, but for the most part, I didn’t feel like I was being led out to pasture but that God was inviting me to make more room for other leaders. Because I love my job I mostly felt grief for the first year of realizing I needed to make some big changes.

What helped turn my grief into acceptance and eventually even joy was when I realized God was not just calling me to start backing away from something I love so much but that I was being called to lean into greater opportunities to nurture my family. We are ridiculously fortunate to have four of our five kids and all four grandchildren living within 25 minutes from our house. My sister lives 9 blocks south of me. My recently retired wife lives even closer than that!

They have all adapted and adjusted their lives to the reality that my calling as a pastor the last 38 years means I have some pretty strange hours, mostly one-day weekends, and am “on call” a lot of the time. They have not been resentful and we have found ways that, for the most part, have kept our family happy and intact. But they’ve made lots of sacrifices. I know many of your families have had to do something similar to accommodate the work and demands of your job.

I’m being called to a chapter in my life that I hope will give my family the freedom to ask for me without having to start their request with, “Dad” or “Mark, I know you’re really busy but would you have a chance to…” I’m eager for my family not to feel like they are sometimes intruding on my “important” life. I’m looking forward to being able to stop what I’m doing in the middle of the day and go grab my grandkids for ice cream after school.

I’m finally at peace with God’s call for me to semi-retire; in fact I’m looking forward to it. While my work will reduce to 25% starting July 1, my love and care for the most beautiful church I’ve ever experienced will not be reduced to 25%.

Nothing but 100% love,

Mark