Fumbling important news: a mea culpa

On August 8th, the first Sunday after returning from my summer trip to Boston, I dropped the news that I feel compelled to make this my last full church year at Pacific Unitarian.  Just a few days prior – wanting not to surprise our leadership – I had informed the Board of what I think of as my sad but necessary decision. All this was fine.  However, for those not serving on our board or not in church that Sunday, many people got the news of my departure, planned for next July, not from me but through news of an upcoming search committee.  Even Sunday, September 19th, there were people who had not heard that, because of my dad’s health issues, I am leaving.  For anyone who is not aware of our upcoming transition, I want to include my earlier letter. 

August 7, 2021

Dear Pacific Unitarian board, 

I am writing a letter that I had mentally planned on writing somewhere in the year 2024 …or later …or maybe never.  I wished either of the former were true.  It breaks my heart to write it now, because this letter is an advance letter of resignation for the end of the next church year.  July 2022.  Yuck!  I want to delete that, and have, but I can’t.

When I sat to make the decision to come to California and serve you all as your minister a little more than four years ago, the only real angst I had about the decision to come west to serve you was that it was an opportunity that happened either a little too soon, or a little too late.  In the spring of 2017, my mom had passed the year before, my dad was in his late 70’s but still strong.  In my mind I was making a six- to eight-year commitment.  Up to about five months ago, I was on track to meet that.

Now, as many of you know, my dad, who has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, is steadily losing his sight, and has left his wife to live even closer to my brothers.  Although he is in a new assisted living facility, he is quietly demanding the time and attention of my brothers in a way that feels persistent.  There is even the idea in his mind that he and I living together next year (summer 2022) would be a good idea.  Given the circumstances, I don’t disagree.  

As my father’s mind and vision slowly slips away, I want to be there for as much of that as I can be.  However, equal the motivation, if not even more a factor, in this hard decision is the desire to be a support for my two younger brothers.  My two brothers, who just walked my aunt through a couple years of cancer treatments, are now daily at my dad’s beck and call.  I have made this decision as much for them as for him.  Probably more.

Although I would wish to fulfill the commitment I came here to do, I really can’t live with the idea of my brothers spending more years carrying what feels like my portion of those family duties while I, three thousand miles away, can only drop in to provide the occasional respite.  If my father were not such an interesting combination of vital and hampered and were the timeline of his evolving needs laid out before us, maybe a different decision could be made.  Sadly, I don’t have a crystal ball, and finding a settled minister is not something one runs down to the local store to pick up.  That process takes time.  

I guess I write the above as much to convince myself I am making the right decision as to convince you of it.  I’m not a person who generally doesn’t finish what I expect to do, and because I mostly love what I do here, and the collective you, it hurts to think about leaving.  When I accepted this position only four years ago, I promised that, minus my dad’s heath, I would stay for six to eight years.  I made that commitment because I never wanted to make the church’s search process an effort made in vain.  

Although I wish I could both leave today and wait longer to see what changes are afoot with my family, you as a church realistically cannot.  Finding a settled minister is an onerous process, and, with the possible addition of integrating a multi-cultural outreach and education director on our plate all at the same time, is a process that requires as much time as possible.  Given all this, I think the decision to plan my departure for next summer the best option in our imperfect, unpredictable world.  Again, I’m sorry.  

I’m excited to be here for the possible implementation of a new DRE/Multicultural Outreach person, and also just to have one more year of serving you.  It has been an honor, and I have felt and will continue to be privileged to do so to the end of the 2021-2022 church year (July or August of next summer).

Sincerely, Rev. Steve Wilson