About Doug

I’ve been a writer ever since I won second prize in a fifth grade “prose and poetry” contest. I’m also a Presbyterian pastor, and I’ve served churches in New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, and Florida. Today I am pastor of the International Protestant Church of Zürich, Switzerland.

Author Archive | Doug

Saying Goodbye (reposted from October 2013)

saying goodbye

Saying goodbye is never easy.

Even the times when I thought it would be easy, when I was glad to leave, when I couldn’t wait to walk out the door, I realized later that it hurt, that I had no idea how attached I had become.

I brought our cat to be put down one time.  She had not been my idea.  I resisted her, but as often happens when the kids grow up and leave home and forget that they had begged and pleaded for a tiny kitten, I became her primary care-giver.

She curled up in my lap every morning while I read the newspaper. I didn’t invite her, but she climbed up anyway. I also fed her and scooped her litter box.

And so when I brought her to be put down, I thought it would be no big deal. “Do you want to hold her while we kill her?” They didn’t say that, of course, but that’s what I heard. “Do you want to hold her while we administer this lethal injection that will render her lifeless in a second or two?”

I held her.

And then I brought her home in an old blanket and buried her in the woods behind our home. What a lousy job.  No one prepared me for how terrible I would feel for days afterward. How did I ever become attached to an animal who seemed to sleep for 23 hours a day?

Saying goodbye, I’ve found, is almost always a kind of death.

As excited as I am to begin this new chapter in my life, as excited as I am to realize this dream of living and working abroad,  as sure as I am that God has prepared me for just this moment in my life, I can feel the toll that it’s taking on me.

Someone hugs me after church yesterday, has a really good grip on me, and whispers into my ear, “I’m going to miss you.”  I say, “I’m going to miss you too.” And it’s true. I’m going to miss a lot of people. Some of them I’m going to miss acutely. How can you not miss a group of people to whom you’ve given just about every waking hour of the day for the last several years?

I looked at my congregation as I stood in the pulpit yesterday, and it was almost more than I could bear. I don’t know every person well, true, but I know a lot of them. I’ve officiated at weddings and funerals and baptisms for their family members.  I’ve held their hands in hospital rooms. I’ve called late at night to ask if they’re okay. I’ve listened to them tell me things that they haven’t told a single other person in the whole world.

How do you say goodbye to people you have loved from the first time you met them?

I still have two more Sundays. I’m not sure how it will be possible to stand in front of them two more times. A week ago I tried humor which, I can report, did not go over very well. I tried to lighten the mood, but it was not a good decision.

A few people laughed, but my humor is usually received better than that. I realized that this is not a time for laughter.

Unfortunately, if I don’t laugh, I will cry. I will take a pocket full of tissues for my last day.

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My Swiss Photo Journal

I have tried my best to offer an honest written account of my years in Switzerland, but it’s possible that a few well-chosen photos might convey – in a different way – what living and working here has been like. It’s a deeply visual experience, as you can imagine. And now, toward the end of my time here, I find myself wishing that I had taken my camera everywhere. Pictured above is my office, scene of many thoughtful conversations, plus some hard thinking and praying. Continue Reading →

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The Annual Christmas Letter

 

Dear family and friends,

Continue Reading →

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I miss Thanksgiving Day

The country where I live does not celebrate Thanksgiving Day. They say they do, but they don’t.

They call it the Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer, which is a mouthful, especially in German, but it’s nothing, really. It falls in the middle of September, and to me it’s just a day like any other.

I miss Thanksgiving Day, the real one, the one I remember from childhood. I woke up a little sad this morning thinking about it. Continue Reading →

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“How’s the farewell tour going?”

Yesterday a church member said to me, “How’s the farewell tour going?”

I suppose this had something to do with my upcoming retirement, and I will assume (because of my natural good-heartedness) that the comment was meant in jest, but it hit the ear wrong. I found myself tearing up unexpectedly.

It’s true that I am in the last months of my ministry here in Switzerland, and I’ve been thinking that there might be some wisdom that I could pass along – or at least note for my own benefit.

I thought about keeping a journal over these last weeks and months, with a view toward writing my next book Continue Reading →

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Getting to a more diverse church

(At the invitation of NEXT Church, a network of Presbyterian leaders in the U.S., I wrote something about becoming a more diverse church, a subject to which I have given considerable thought. You can find the original here at the NEXT Church website.)

I’m no longer sure what got into me, but at the ripe old age of 59, after serving mostly white and mostly suburban congregations over the course of more than 30 years of ministry, I accepted the call to become pastor of the International Protestant Church of Zürich (Switzerland).

On my first Sunday at my new church, I looked out at one of the most racially and ethnically diverse congregations in the world. On any given Sunday, more than two dozen nationalities are present in worship at my church, every skin tone God ever imagined. There are also more language groups than I have dared to count. Continue Reading →

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“Retirement” and this thing called ministry

I’ve been using the word “retirement” for the last few years mainly as a joke, as though it were some distant possibility, certainly not something that I needed to worry about any time soon.

And then, last week, what had seemed so distant and unlikely suddenly became a reality. I am planning to retire early next year, six months from now. Continue Reading →

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Here’s an Oscar-worthy video about my new book

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Bad timing for my new book? I don’t think so

Timing may not be everything in the publishing world – a few other factors are important too – but bad timing is never good for the launch of a new book.

In the forward to my just-published book, How to Become a Multicultural Church, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson points out that most western democracies are having a hard time right about now with multiculturalism, especially with what feels like a rising tide of refugees, immigrants, and others who are, well, different from the rest of us.

In the recent presidential election, Donald Trump successfully tapped into the fears and anxieties that many Continue Reading →

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I was there to hear your borning cry

As I write this, I am getting ready to travel to the U.S. for my mother’s 90th birthday. She is doing well, she lives independently, and (like the Queen of England) she still drives, though not as much as in the past, mainly for her weekly hair appointment. Continue Reading →

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