I am writing what will be my last column as the pastor of the church here in Douglas. As I look forward to retirement (at an early age!) and a shift in careers for the time being, I am spending more time thinking about what I experienced during the seven years since I left the Texas panhandle to come to this beautiful place. The first few years I was kicking and screaming every year at evaluation time. I was ready to go back to Texas, to people I knew and understood - or so I thought - and to people who were more like me than the people here were.
Eventually I learned to relax and take in the beauty around me. There were times when I would sit in the chair in my living room and look out at the birds in the air playing in the currents over the channel. I had been listening to the stories of the people who had lived here more than 50 years, longer than Alaska had been a state, and I heard remarkable stories of courage, strength and resilience. Soon I came to realize that what I was fighting was not Alaska and people who were different than I am. I was fighting the changes that were occurring in my own life and spirit.
I have always had that Type-A personality that controls all the details and organizes beyond organizational level. The slightest push toward changing my plans and my dreams threw me into such tailspins that I grew frustrated and pushed when I should have simply waited for God to lead the way. By watching how the birds will dive head first into the winds in a downward motion, only to let the wind buoy them up by pushing them back in a loop-the-loop fashion, I learned that sometimes I needed to abandon my well-made plans and dive headlong into the winds of change. I still struggle with that in my life, but learning to flow with the currents has made life more pleasant over the past few years. Even hard decisions made during the process of letting the current move me in the Spirit's direction have proved to be the best decisions.
My current decision to leave the church has not been an easy one. I have many friends here. I count on them, and they on me. Their ability to bounce back when life throws them a curve has become an inspiration. Together as a community we have grown to accept one another and to care for one another. We have nudged each other toward those changes that will make this community we live in a better place.
What I have appreciated most in this community of people, both inside my church and outside of the church, has been the gift of love. I arrived as an unknown person with many strange habits and ways of thinking. Here I have been embraced by a love that looked beyond those habits. I have had some successes and some failures, and again I have been embraced whether I succeeded or failed. Most importantly the love that has embraced me has also come from outside of the church, from the larger community of Douglas and Juneau. I have found what I was seeking in the beginning - a place to live and love, to be accepted even when we do not agree on a particular issue, and to be able also to love in return.
I am delighted to say that I have found my home in Juneau, and that here I have been embraced by love from so many in the community. If I had any last words for the community in this forum it would be these:
Continue to try to love one another. Look beyond our differences in ideology, political persuasion and party, race and creed. Look to one another for guidance and help along the journey we call life. And when you find yourself to be the beloved, stay put, for you are at home in this world. Continue to work together to find answers to our problems. Listen to one another, really listen. The words of our mouths may sound different, but the love in our hearts we hold in common.
May that love continue to bless and keep us, together as a community, called the Beloved, from this day forward.
The Rev. Kim Poole is the minister at Douglas Community United Methodist Church.