The Rev. Sharon Temple writes to the former pastor of the church she currently serves about maintaining pastoral boundaries:
Dear Rev. Former Pastor:
You just got the call from a beloved parishioner in your previous congregation. Their loved one has just died and they have called you. They want you to:
“do the funeral” — or —
co-officiate the funeral with me, Rev. Current Pastor
— or at least —
say a few words at the funeral
come to the visitation
stop by the house
“You will be there, won’t you?”
What should the former pastor do? Possibilities:
Your three possible responses:
The inappropriate “YES”: “Of course I’ll be there” — or — any immediate reassurance that you will be there for them, with them, present at the funeral or before or after the funeral. You expect me (Rev. Current Pastor) to make room and make a way.
The seemingly respectful “I’m sure we can work something out.”: “I’ll call Rev. Current and ask if we can work together” — or — “You need to call Rev. Current and get permission from) her/him”
The excruciatingly difficult “NO”: “I know that Rev. Current will see you through this” — or — “I am not available to do that.”
Read Temple’s thoughts about these situations and add what you think in the comments.