August 1, 2004 was my first day with you as your newly-called priest to St. Peter’s. It was a Sunday, joyful and hot. Hot. Having come from Virginia where intense heat and humidity is quelled by air-conditioning, I was almost overtaken by the unabated furnace that was the sanctuary. I was also touched at how everyone present was radiant with kindness and excitement. People sat through (what I still believe was) the hottest liturgy of Holy Eucharist ever at St. Peter’s, eager to start a new relationship – with each other as well as with a new priest. As I write this I am feeling the heat of our first truly hot and humid day this summer and reflecting on some of what has transpired over the last 11 years:
- Making space for a labyrinth behind the church building for Matthew Branson’s Eagle Scout badge with the Boy Scouts
- Letting go of the flagging thrift store that operated out of the Carriage House to open room for other ministries, some which have yet to be determined
- The design and creation of the Memorial Garden
- Going from one service of Holy Eucharist on a Sunday to two
- A guest appearance during worship of llamas to promote Heifer International
- Connecting with St. Andrew’s in West Manchester to support them in their food pantry ministry and begin a partnership
- Burying beloved parishioners such as Paul Mailhot, Carol Rosse, Merilyn Eaton, Bob Paciulan, Jean Stott
- Hosting the blessing of my marriage to Hank Junkin and throwing us a fabulous party
- Being voted into full parish status at the Diocesan Council of 2011
- The 25th Anniversary Celebration the following year
- Katharine Jefferts-Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, celebrating Holy Eucharist at St. Peter’s on the Sunday after Bishop Rob Hirschfeld’s consecration
No doubt many of you can think of more events that have happened over the last decade. There are also personal memories and connections which keep bubbling up in my mind, such as Karen West always knowing where I put my papers, my keys, or anything else of mine; having sing-alongs and laughing with Emery as we would pick hymns for the upcoming liturgical seasons; listening to the church school children pray the Lord’s Prayer at top volume… these are the bits and pieces that come out of regular, mundane, day-to-day patterns which I treasure the most.
Very soon you will move into an interim period; a time to lay fallow, reassess, and take measure on how you will move forward as a faith community. You have a faithful priest and friend in Dick Matthews, who will pastor St. Peter’s through this time of waiting and transition. Bishop Rob and Canon Hannah Anderson will be faithful guides in your journey. Trust your vestry and pray for their work as your elected leadership. They need your support. In all these things be patient with one another and the process. The interim period is an important time in the life of a parish – don’t rush through it just so you can get to the other side. It will bear much fruit if you allow it room to breathe.
Both you and I are on the threshold of new life. The mystic and poet John O’Donohue wrote blessings for all sorts of thresholds, and here is a snippet of one he wrote for interim periods:
You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.
“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”…
As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all that you have outgrown.
What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult to slow and become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.*
Please know of my abiding prayers for you and gratitude for our time together. God is faithful and will continue to work God’s purpose out in all of us.
*Excerpted from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. John O’Donohue; Doubleday, 2008.