That’s Lynn Williamson, pastor at Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Casper. She is talking about liminal space because, on Sunday, she will retire after 18 years leading the church.
Shepherd of the Hills sits right at the bottom of Casper Mountain and sees about 250 people a week come through its doors. Williamson herself sees them all, from the youngest to the oldest.
Although she will miss her flock, it’s time to retire, she says. Pastoring for almost 20 years, plus trying to navigate a pandemic, exhausted her.
“I weight lift, so I’m strong enough to carry the weight that I carry on my shoulders. That’s gotten heavier and heavier and heavier. I didn’t realize that when I started but … there’s so much – people are suffering. And I’m the only one who knows (sometimes),” she told the Star-Tribune in an interview. The coronavirus didn’t help, either. Williamson had to adjust to doing services via Zoom – a change she said her congregation glided into with ease. But she also constantly feared that she or someone she knew would be the next one to get sick.
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“I just started to do a lot of pastoral care on the phone,” she said.
Still, there’ve been a lot of really sweet moments, Williamson, who is originally from South Carolina, said. She has been an ordained pastor for 35 years.
When she first came here, she noticed that it was warm but not humid, windy but not buggy, and snowy but with no ice storms. As she adjusted to driving in the snow and found snowshoeing to be an enjoyable hobby, she liked it more and more.
She and her husband, Dan Houck, plan to stay in Casper after her retirement.
She will, perhaps, miss working with the kids of her church the most. She loves “telling children about Jesus,” she said, and one of the reasons that she didn’t retire last year was because two of the kids she baptized when she first started are seniors in high school this year.
It’s part of Shepherd of the Hills’ youth program, she said, to bring the seniors up to the stage so they can present their “senior sermon,” a collection of favorite Bible passages and memories, and thanksgiving to parents, teachers and leaders. As they go out, they can reflect on what their time at the church has taught them and how it’s shaped them into who they are now.
Williamson usually preaches from a Biblical text or from a lectionary, which is a system that designates different Biblical texts to be read for each Sunday, or holy day, of the year.
On Sunday, though, she will abandon her usual preaching style for a different one: her own senior sermon.
“I’m reflecting on a couple of my favorite Bible passages and thanking everybody and saying what I’m gonna do next. So I said, this is my senior sermon,” she said.
Then, it’s off to a summer break that will last longer than just the summer. Her plans? “Sabbath rest,” she told the Star-Tribune, which includes a month-long stay at Ring Lake Ranch in Dubois, more time in the gym and perhaps some lifelong learner classes at Casper College.
And, of course, whatever the next steps are, the place beyond the liminal space she exists in now.
“You know, I’m between two worlds, the threshold of something new. And I don’t know what that is. So we’ll see.”