Today I preached my first itinerant gig in many years. It went well, the congregation was very warm, but it still felt weird. It felt weird just to leave afterwards and ride off into the distance. Preaching is such a relational act, and I put so much of myself into it, that it's diconcerting to preach out of context, not to hear the response to your part of the dialog.
My son came with me because he wanted to help with our children's lesson "Tacky the Penguin" which we had done together at our old church. He was clearly thinking about the old church on the long ride out into the countryside, because he mentioned missing his Sunday school teacher, and missing his close friend who was there at church with him almost every week, and often played with him while their moms were in a committee meeting together. After we arrived at the church gave ourselves a tour and introduced ourselves to some of the children, I think my son felt the strangeness too. The form of UU worship is so familiar, and we know "Tacky" by heart, but everyone around us was new to us, and perhaps he felt like I did; somewhat like an odd penguin in a Hawaiian shirt and purple bow tie.
I've been asked back to preach later in the fall. I'm really glad. It will feel good to be in dialog with a congregation again, even if they find a permanent minister to fill their pulpit right away . It's a small UU world up here, and I hope to be here for at least a decade or so. It will be good to get to know the neighbors.