This time of year finds most of the field education experiences coming to an end for students committed to an academic program. Most of our students in the first years of theological study have served with vulnerable populations: elders in residential settings, children and adults with disabilities, incarcerated youth and adults, women and children recovering from abuse, men and women recovering from addictions, homelessness or joblessness. The students have often become close to individuals at their field placements. In fact, the hope is that they will "fall in love" with the People of God in the setting to which they have been sent by the church through the institution. This is a mark of a true minister: one who is capable of engaging others readily, and to whom others are attracted as a man or woman of God. The field placements come to an end, however, and these relationships must be gently brought to some kind of closure in a way that does not do violence to the vulnerable, nor sets up unrealistic expectations of return, especially for those traumatize by broken promises as a matter of course. We talk about this phenomenon as we prepare ministers who are available to the church in the capacities that best serve the whole. The apostle is ready to be sent, to move, but also not to leave a gaping hole in terms of ministry responsibilities and relationships.
- Have I said good-bye to everyone so that there is a sense of closure and gratitude? Have I prepared others for my departure in a timely manner?
- Have I started initiatives that have the capacity of being sustained by others? I have I left instructions or trained others or brought the activity to closure?