The following is an excerpt of the final sermon given by Reverend Amy Edwards to her congregation at the Edgartown Federated Church on Sunday, May 1. Rev. Edwards died on Friday, May 13.

This is my last Sunday with you and this will be my last sermon from this pulpit. I say that outright and without sugar coating, because it is a truth we cannot hide. These are my last collective words to you. I just hope that you who are here lower your expectations from The Last Lecture; the lecture that went viral when a young professor gave his last lecture about his imminent end of life.

Goodbyes are hard and often left unspoken. People avoid the emotions associated with goodbyes: sadness, anxiety, loss, even anger. Our avoidance is perhaps a natural part of the letting go. People dodge goodbyes throughout their lives, whether they avoid a conversation with an old friend who is leaving or dying, or whether they break up with someone in a text or simply by walking away. People do it all the time; leave without words, farewell or recognition. But truly that is a disservice. For in choosing to be here today, I choose to see you directly, to see your shock and sadness honestly on your faces. I can then care for you exponentially. You in turn can perhaps understand some of the rawness of my emotion. Leaving in the midst through goodbye offers the opportunity for us all to speak about what we have had together. And in this context it allows you now to explore where you, without me present, will continue growing, and to explore how to shine on!

Before I share my actual goodbye, please know that I am at peace despite, or perhaps because of, my proximity, to death. I feel calm and surrounded by grace. I am not afraid. My troubled heart hurts not from the death but from the fact that I must leave you all way too early and the fact that now you are in transition and uncertain. Our physical relation now ends to be replaced with a more spiritual bond.

What a future it would have been. In the past seven months — just seven months, people — we connected so quickly and joined in the business of church leadership and personal growth and transformation. I was honored first as a guest at dinners, on walks, to barn dances or simply into your home or heart for an intimate cup of tea. That shifted sometime in early December before I even ended up in the hospital, to the deep underbelly of relationship. The kind of relationship that says, “this is all of me. That is all of you.” Personal and faith-filled. Amen and thank you.

When my illness became apparent, your outpouring of love and concern, your generosity and spirit rose to the occasion as you or representatives not only traveled to Boston — way out of your way — to visit me or to bring me some desired item but also as you stepped automatically into positions of greater roles in worship and in pastoral care. I was away. You did this naturally. This is who you are.

In seven short months so much ministry has occurred. Several deaths, illnesses and periods of communal grief, the care for families and the celebration of lives well lived. Again you all rose to each occasion to care, to share, to bear witness. I could go on and list so many activities: the Festival of Wreaths, the community suppers. These are the hands on ministries and missions which drew me to you in the first place. Again, notice this is a people’s ministry; the work of the community, the work of the people. That ministry only deepened as we opened our parish hall two evenings a week to Hospitality Homes, offering shelter and warm food throughout the raw winter months. I witnessed you giving of yourselves selflessly towards that mission. I watched you shine and know that you will shine on.

Since I arrived, I have said that my name — the pastor’s name — should not be listed on the front of the bulletin. I have said over and over that I am not the church. My name belongs elsewhere, listed with Peter and John Schule, yes, but also listed with you — the true ministers of this church who take the spoken gospel and live it out in our world. We are ministers all. I hope you continue to take credit alongside your new interim and then new pastor.

Much of what we have done together is to explore the scripture deeply in a way that makes the biblical stories alive, real and very relevant to you. People have told me my story-writing context as well as my expression of the gospel in my personal life has helped to transform them. That says to me that you are here in church, that you are listening to my faithful interpretations, and that you then are applying what you hear from your center — from God’s core — out into the world. That again is your ministry. Shine on, my friends.

So here at last we are now faced with that looming word — goodbye — at a time when it does mean forever. And at a time that we don’t want to accept my short stay here. We may want to hang on. We may not want more change. I step away now like a parent ready to watch her loved ones soar on their own. I do so knowing that God is refuge for both of us, and from Psalm 36, knowing that God’s steadfast love at all times offers us the shelter of God’s wings.

And I step back like Paul from the Philippians this morning, a man imprisoned at the time of his writing; certainly a man not able to fulfill the physical manifestations of pastor. I see a man recognizing and thanking the ministry of the Philippi community. And he does so with his heart and words gently overflowing with love and thanks. I am Paul today, unable to lead on physically yet so full of gratitude and love and the knowing that you will shine on. You rise, you sing, you love. I leave you with Paul’s prayer: “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless.”

You hold me in your hearts. I do the same with you. And you do the same with each and with the next shooting star to flash into your life. Amen.