Seventeen Years!

It took me most of the day to figure it out,  but I’ve now served seventeen years (not sixteen as I thought as the day began) as rector of St. Mary’s. Who’d have thought?

When I was called to serve as rector of St. Mary’s, I was going through a divorce.  The parish had had three vicar/rectors, and the last one had left under unhappy circumstances.  The parish was deeply in debt, and as with so many churches in the 1990’s, there were struggles among parishioners about what worship should be like.  In my perception, we were all broken and we were all hopeful and we all healed together.

I committed to stay three years, never knowing the gift that God would give me of having, what is in the Episcopal Church, a long pastorate.

My first Sunday to serve at St. Mary’s was All Saints’ Sunday, so that Sunday each year is an even more special anchor in the Church year for me.  A time to reflect and give extra thanks.

All Saints Weekend this year started on Saturday morning and was spent with those who serve in worship at St. Mary’s.  Thirty or so of us gathered for a day parenthesized with Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist, with the bonus of an Eucharistic team taking Holy Communion to a parishioner who is unable to drive to Sunday worship.

The afternoon was spent with a family that is new to our parish, preparing the parents and Godparents for the baptism of Jameson the next day.

And then there was All Saints Sunday.  Our Canon for Lifelong Christian Formation, The Rev. John Newton, preached at all three Holy Eucharists about the blessing of being a saint, and did an excellent teaching during Adult Christian Formation. Our youth decided to join the adult class after one of them had heard John’s sermon and told the rest they needed to “come and see.”  Every chair was taken in a full room of folks listening to John’s excellent teaching–lifelong Christian Formation indeed.

Each of our three All Saints Sunday Eucharists was full of gifts from God.  All morning folks who hadn’t been around in a while came to worship God.  At 10.30 our choir, our fabulous choir, sang the Gospel, the Beatitudes.  It was so beautiful, it made me weep.

Jameson’s baptism during the 10.30 Eucharist.  Renewal of baptismal vows at all three services.

Dedication of the Children’s Chapel in memory of our beloved young parishioner, Jamie.

Unexpected guests who showed up before worship needing financial help and praying about how to share God’s blessing with them.

Remembering those we love but see no more.  Names written on paper bricks of those saints creating a wall in the nave.

Unexpected personal gifts.  A parishioner whose son died this past year has started a ministry with another parishioner of creating bears from Andy’s clothes as a tangible way to hold on and pray.  The ministry expanding as they create more and more bears from the clothes of others who have died.  I was given a second bear yesterday as an unexpected gift

A parishioner with a sister who has been living with her while the sister  recovers from a bout of serious ill health.   The sister, now better, will be returning home, and it was her last Sunday to worship at St. Mary’s.  She brought me a plant to thank me for my care.

What care?  A healing blessing at Communion, a smile, a greeting.  So very little in God’s Kingdom, and yet, that’s what being a rector at St. Mary’s for seventeen years has been about for me.  Little acts, blessed by God.

So very little that I have given.  So very, very much I have received.  
Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever.  

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