Hallelujahs and heartaches, too

On the occasion of a friend's retirement after more than four decades of pastoral ministry

by Ken Sehested

What a day! What a day! Not to mention a year,

4+ decades piled head-to-toe,

some of them a bit fuzzy now

(thank God!),

others like constellations whose radiance still

guides during dark nights of the soul.

Little did you know, a half-century ago

when your vocation was gestating,

what your profession would involve, where your

convictions would take you, the joys then unimaginable,

the sorrows ruthless beyond belief. And the

“ordinary” days, the days for which songs are

never composed, for which cakes are never baked,

for which poems are never rhymed nor hymns

inspired, for which hardly anyone

but the Beloved took note.


Scores upon scores of hallelujahs and heartaches, too.

Cares that kept you up at night and joys that set you

moving at the first sight of dawn’s light.


If you could have known then what you know now, would

you have allowed those authorizing hands to be laid

on your head? Would you, instead, have run

screaming from the room, faster than Jonah in a

speedboat, further than Tarshish multiplied many

times over? Bemoaning the day of your birth,

more bitterly than Jeremiah?

Cursing God more boldly than Job, demanding a

grand jury indictment for the Most High?


Might you have sought an easier Gospel to declare— a

compliant, more digestible announcement, something

less thorny, less disturbing to patrons, more likely

to win friends and salutations from chambers of

commerce? How many times have you been

tempted to soften the Word, to something like:

thus recommendeth the Lord?


Would you have preferred a cool breeze and votive candle

to Pentecost’s raging wind and flaming tongues of fire?

Maybe a luxury hotel room to the Nativity’s

barn yard stable? Did another life tempt your fate,

one free of property maintenance, boo birds in

the balcony, last minute panics when there’s not

enough grape juice for communion?

You should be happy to not pull off

another capital campaign.


Wouldn’t it all have been easier if Jesus had turned those

rocks to bread. Or cut a deal with the devil in order to

accomplish salvation’s end? Or to undertake a few

magical feats to pack the sanctuary,

grow the membership, spit-polish that

muddle of a sermon?

What harm could that have done?


But, no. Nooooo.

You knew, down in your toes if not in your head,

that there is no skipping from

the crib to the cross

to the Crown of Glory.

No shortcuts to bypass those ordinary days.

No passing the cup of those agonizing experiences.

No surge protection

against joy’s electrifying arc.

For there is no ordinary in ordination’s destination.


Now, though, receive gladly the permission to lie fallow

on days other than Mondays. Let your appointment

book and dress shoes gather dust. Have a Bloody

Mary for brunch on a Sunday. Linger longer with the

morning paper. Give those grandbabies your

undivided, leisurely attention. Let the

lectionary recede, at least for a while .

Turn off your phone for long periods of time. Be less

wordy, and less worrisome, in your prayer time.


Yet may you continue to live large

laugh often, and

love well.

#  #  #

—commemorating the retirement of Paul Hayes, pastor of Noank Baptist Church, Noank, CT.