What God Has in Store

When I was called as rector of St. Mary’s, I committed to stay for at least three years.

Each year since, I’ve intentionally prayed about whether or not I was still called to serve as rector.

I had some opportunities to test that call–three times candidate for bishop, invitations to serve in other rector search processes, a couple of invitations to consider whether or not to serve on the diocesan staff.  I’ve even asked God if it’s time to retire.

Each testing of the call was another yes for St. Mary’s.

For twenty one years God has said yes to my call to St. Mary’s.  Few rectors receive the gift of a long pastorate.

Last spring I was at the Diocesan Center at a meeting, and I thought about how very grateful I was to be serving at St. Mary’s.  I recalled the times I’d wondered about serving on the Diocesan staff, and was thankful that God had kept me in the center of St. Mary’s parish life.

I should have known.

Later that week I was invited to be part of discernment for the position of  Missioner for Congregational Vitality.  I have to admit.  It was lovely to be wanted and to have my gifts affirmed by people I respected.  However, almost immediately, it appeared that door closed as the diocese decided to look in some wider circles.

I was thankful to have my call to St. Mary’s be another yes.  I was grateful after all of the moves of the past two years because of a twice flooded rectory to settle in and be present with the people I love in a house that feels like a gift everyday.

I couldn’t have been more surprised (really!) when late this summer, returning from my mini-Sabbatical, I was asked to be the Missioner for Congregational Vitality.  I hadn’t applied.  I hadn’t sought it out.  I was simply called.

I went through one of the most difficult months of discernment of my life.  I met with my therapist and spiritual director.   I sought the counsel and prayer of trusted friends.

I grieved deeply, deeply the thought of leaving the parish I have loved and called home for the past twenty-one years.

Frankly, the thought of moving yet again felt daunting beyond measure.

God and I had a lot of long, heart-wrenching talks.

And then, there it was.  The peace where I knew what my next call was.

When I was about ten years old, I heard my first call to ministry.   God spoke in my spirit and told me that I was called to be a missionary.

That call has shaped deeply who I was as a lay person and as I am as a priest.

It is not lost on me that God has now called me to actually have that title, more or less, as Missioner for Congregational Vitality.

My heart breaks to leave St. Mary’s.

There were things I thought I was called to do at St. Mary’s that will not be complete–building a labyrinth and leading a capital funds mission to renovate our aging campus.  I did not achieve the goal for which I had hoped and prayed–for our whole parish’s commitment to sharing all of the gifts God has given us; there are still friends who live out of a theology of scarcity.  We are still revisioning our ministry with children, youth, and young families.  As I write this, I am not sure what our discernment will be about same gender marriage.

And then there are the precious, precious people of St. Mary’s.  There are no words, only tears.

And yet joy–at a God who continues to surprise.

This weekend I will make public my next call–knowing that my new call gives St. Mary’s a new call, too.

May we all be blessed.

Art pictured in this blog are photos I took on my trip last week to Chrystal Bridges Museum and Bentonville, Arkansas.  

8 thoughts on “What God Has in Store

  1. I recall our first Sunday at St Mary’s vividly. Both you and Katie welcomed us with generous love. We all felt instantly this was to be our church home. From that day you have been the model of vital priesthood to me, a thoughtful, skilled, loving, hardworking, sacrificial light on the hill. It has not been easy with many setbacks testing your resolve, pushing you into new and difficult places. But despite that, you have carried on serving the people of Cypress and beyond.

    I am thankful that my diocese has called you to this new place. Your many years of experience, your heart for all people and your understanding of the intricacies of our diocese make certain I am sure, that you will be an exceptional Missioner.

    Back to my first day at St Mary’s. I undertook some research to work out which of the Episcopal churches to visit. There was a number to choose from, but, St Mary’s stood out due to you, Beth. It was clear to me, as someone who had been around clergy a while, that you were something quite special. And I was right. You have been at times a rock to my family and I. You have encouraged us, loved us and taught us.

    For me personally, transitioning to a new diocese with a variety of differences was harder than I realized. You have facilitated me finding a place in our church. From those very first Sundays where you would invite me up to assist with communion, through to now, being active on the supply list, you played a central role in me growing into my license to the diocese of Texas.

    I have said it many times, you are the finest priest I have come across. As you leave St Mary’s I pray that you are overwhelmed with a bouquet of appreciation, stories of lives touched and changed, and a clear and strong sense that God has indeed used you over these 21 years.

    Well done, good and faithful servant. But the time has come to leave, there are new places for you to explore now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sally. I had planned to be there, but because of this transition, I won’t be. However, part of my new agreement is that I will be free to do the oblate retreat going forward. Yeah!

      Like

  2. i know the joy of a long pastorate, the grief of saying goodby, the difficulty of letting a new pastor get on with it, and the excitement of a new kind of life….may you know the deep Presence within and around you, and may St Mary’s feel it too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My dear Beth
    I just saw this post. I am thrilled for you and this new opportunity and at the same time my heart breaks for you as you must say good-bye. I have so many questions but they will wait. Just know you and the wonderful folks of St Mary’s are in my prayers.
    Teri

    Like

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