FAQs About John’s Departure

Are you really retiring?  

Well, I don’t flinch at the word retirement (and you’re free to use that term) but here’s what I say:  I’m not officially retiring.  As of June 30, I’ll step down and away from this Bedford ministry that I’ve loved.  I am not yet retiring from the UU ministry.  Here I’m stepping down, hoping to reinvent myself, finding ways to serve, and exploring some new fresh ways to get in good trouble.  I’m not quite ready to hang up my spurs.

Some have encouraged me to consider interim ministries.  For now I don’t think I’ll do that but I will consider alternatives.  Eventually, I look forward to travel, reconnecting with friends and family, and losing myself in some good books.

The Parish Board has generously offered Sue and me the use of the parsonage during the interim period.  We appreciate this as it takes the pressure off of moving, At least for now, we’d like to stay living in Bedford but we’re looking at alternative places to live.

There are also many unknowns in my relationship with our interim minister and my successors, and we simply need to stay light on out feet. In other words we’ll see how it goes.

The UU Ministers Association Code of Professional Conduct for departing UU ministers is clear:  I must discontinue pastoral relationships and I must stay out of the way of my successors and the congregation as you establish new relationships and forge a new future.  I am obligated to establish a covenant with my successors and I must defer to their boundaries.  It would be a violation of the Code for me to do otherwise.

Here is the entirety of the Code of Professional Conduct:


Again, I say that Sue and I need to stay “light on our feet” as we assess what it feels like for us to continue to live in Bedford.

Can you preach, attend, officiate or participate in weddings, memorials, or other church events?

For the next two years, at least, no.  And, by the way, I don’t want to.  I love you but I just don’t want to feel obligated.  There are two Covid-delayed weddings at which I’ll officiate – one in July and another in early October.  I’m accepting no further commitments.

While exceptional pandemic circumstances may require rare additional exceptions, Sue and I do not plan to attend any church services or events at First Parish for the next two years at least.

What happens if we meet in the grocery store or elsewhere?

We’ll talk! I’ll still want to know how thing are with your family and friends.

Of course, I will always remain interested in you and your families. Nonetheless our relationship will not be pastoral.  Even by email or phone, we will no longer be in a pastoral relationship.  At a distance, I will grieve and celebrate with you.

As for internal church issues, I just won’t talk about – or even listen  – to that stuff.

I want to be helpful to my successors and, with them, I’ll discuss possible ways I may help.  TBD.

Is there any possibility we’ll see one another in person in the coming year?

Yet again, we’ll see. There may be some outdoor events this spring.  Depending on the covenant that the interim and I establish, rare exceptions may or may not be possible.

Yes, it’s weird.

Nevertheless, it’s all predicated on the assumption that the future will be even better than the past.

On to the unknown…


questions? fpjohng@gmail.com