Something that many Unitarian-Universalists may not be aware of is that when a minister retires or moves on to a new pulpit, they are told not to have any contact with other members of their former church for an extended time. There are in fact no hard rules on the books about this, but apparently retiring ministers are supposed to stay away from other churchmembers for six months to a year, if not longer. Ministers who have moved on to new churches (even under amicable conditions) are not supposed to talk with former parishioners for even longer: one UU minister filed a greivance against another UU minister because, three years after he’d moved on, friends from a former church ran into him at GA and went out to lunch with him. In another incident, a UU minister complained about a retiring minister taking the phone calls of other people in the church; the retiring minister had been with the church for many decades and lived nearby, while the complaining minister had only been at the church for a few years. One minister who retired in the summer felt she had to refuse a longtime churchmembers’ loaf of home-baked bread at Christmastime, because the defensive new minister might find out.
This is a difficult situation to handle. On the one hand, it is cruel to tell retiring ministers that they cannot talk or visit with their lifelong friends at precisely the moment when they are undergoing one of the biggest and hardest transitions of their lives–transitions that may be compounded by all sorts of other circumstances, such as personal illness or that of a close family member, moving out of the parish to an unfamiliar location, and so on. And it is absurd to imagine that former ministers now serving other churches should not have any contact with people who have been christened, married, and (had loved ones) buried by her–such ties don’t severe merely because the pastor has moved up the road to a new church. Strict interpretation of such guidelines is hurtful to both minister and churchmembers, and is a sure way for a newer minister to seriously alienate his flock. At times some ministers have interpreted this policy in surprisingly illiberal ways, implying that the members of a church “belonged” to him and not the former minister, as if any UU layperson would stand for being thought of in any fashion as the spiritual property of any minister.
On the other hand, there is a real need for ministers to begin to relax those ties with people who they used to pastor: he is no longer professionally responsible for their spiritual care, and laypeople have to learn not to continually hound him for advice and sympathy. Likewise, new ministers really do need to establish rapport with their new congregations, and having a former minister still hanging around in some manner is a sure way to muck up this process, perhaps even sabotage it completely. These situations do really exist, where ministers emeritus try to hold on to their position in the community and work behind the scenes to manage the new minister as a puppet, or turn the laypeople against her altogether. That is why the UU Ministers Association cautions against regular contact with one’s former congregation in the initial time period following the relinquishment of a pastorate. For more info, consult section IX of the UUMA Conduct of Ministry Guidelines (available here in pdf).