My colleague Judy Watt retired, and yesterday was her last Sunday leading worship. I shared the following with the congregational meeting dissolving her pastoral relationship with the church.
I want to be more like her in the years of ministry I have left.
I have had the privilege of serving alongside Judy Watt for just shy of four years now, and it occurs to me that my experience of this church can’t be disentangled from my experience of Judy; I’m not the only pastor on this staff for whom that is the case. And though the time we have spent as colleagues here represents a short interval in Judy’s fruitful career of ministry, it has been very significant to me.
I have had in The Rev. Judy Watt a joyful, at times even playful, colleague. The demands of ministry are many, and they are often heavy, and yet Judy reserves space for whimsy and for spontaneity, and that, for me, has often meant the difference between a bad day and a good day. Against her better judgment, Judy has agreed more than once to be conscripted into some juvenile shenanigan–almost as frequently as she has initiated one.
I think this levity is one of the things that has lent Judy’s ministry here authority. You sense it even in the way she leads worship, when she calls us to the prayer of confession, for example, with words we all know, words she has uttered countless times. Yet every time she savors the words. Not a one comes out carelessly or automatically, still less dramatically. They are the church’s words, but we have also known them to be irreducibly Judy’s words, to us, spoken with a pleasure and a care that is deeply authentic.
But you do not mistake levity for frivolity when you work with Judy. In my early days and months here, whenever I would feel unsure about how to interpret some unique aspect of our life together—some quirk in our very full calendar, for example—I found myself taking my cue from Judy. Very often without saying a word, Judy embodies the right posture, the appropriate posture, toward people and circumstances: not silly, but also not stifling in its seriousness. She has taught me how to regard this extraordinary context for ministry, often unaware she is doing so.
And there have been times when she has taught me quite aware that that’s what she was doing. Just two weeks ago I wore my little rectangular nametag on my stole during worship—I don’t know why; I’d never done it before—and the following Tuesday Judy made a point to come to my office to tell me I should not do that, that it was distracting. A minor thing, for sure, and from a less mature colleague such a correction could have felt petty. But coming from Judy it was kind (of course it was kind) and it was clear. Such is her way, and I was more the once the beneficiary of it.
I have learned from Judy’s voice, not only when it has been directed to me, but far more frequently when it has been addressed to you, as it was from this pulpit this morning. I have learned by watching her with the Deacons, with the staff, and even with her family. This congregation has been well-served to have you as one of its ministers, and I count myself fortunate that, though for only a few short years, I got to be one of them with you. You have no doubt earned a fulfilling retirement, and that is my prayer for you, for Dave, for your kids and grandkids. Blessings and God speed.