Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Letter to Saint Middle School

March 7, 2010

My brothers and sisters in Christ-

In a few weeks, Easter will be upon us. We will celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. His triumph over the grave and rising in glory reminds us of the many times in our own lives that we felt we were going down to the grave, failing, falling apart. Somehow, with God’s help, we rose, scrambling out of that pit and into something that felt like a little triumph.

When Pastor J announced her departure from Saint Middle School, some wondered if the parish would survive. Would this faith community go down to the grave? A few were so shaken by this change that they left, to find a place that felt safer. But most of us stayed, firm in the belief that God had work for us to do here, that we were a faith family, and that we would continue.

Part of that intense desire for continuity as a faith community caused you to ask me, someone who had come to you as a mere seminarian, to remain during this time of transition. In the first months after J’s departure, I was simply a “continuing pastoral presence,” someone who helped those in trouble, someone who helped make sure the bulletins got done, someone who helped the supply priests. After my graduation and ordination, I was your Deacon-in-Charge, able to perform more of the role of pastor, but not all.

Despite my limitations, you warmly encouraged me.

Because of my limitations, you took on more of the responsibilities of ministry, and your lay leadership flourished and grew.

Nowhere was that more evident, and nowhere was your response more exciting and encouraging, than in this year’s stewardship campaign, where your generosity meant that pledge dollars increased by almost 30% over last year, and we had a more than 25% increase in number of pledges. Your faith in the future of Saint Middle School is strong, and so is the faith of this Diocese. Several large parishes in this diocese have committed funds to guarantee that the position of permanent vicar here at Saint Middle School will be a full-time one. This is as it should be. To grow and prosper, and to meet the pastoral needs of this wonderful faith family, you need a full-time vicar.

In the months since my ordination to the priesthood, my work with you has continued and deepened. I have mourned with you as you grieved; rejoiced with you as we celebrated blessed events, baptized new Christians, and remembered our past commitments of love; and talked with you as you have struggled with hard decisions and deep questions. I have taught you in classes, in preaching and in conversation. Your willingness to accept me as your priest has been an honor and a blessing, and I am grateful.

But change is a part of resurrection. As the beautiful altar cloths will change from austere Lenten Array to the deep red of Holy Week, and then to glorious white on Easter Sunday, as the spring will wipe away the memories of the harsh snows of December, January and February with daffodils and tulips, we know that Saint Middle School will change as well. In the coming months, you will call a new vicar who will lead you to the next phase of your life as a growing community of faith.

And I will change, too. I have accepted a call to be Priest-in-Charge of the Church by the Lakeside in Richmond. I will complete my time with you on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010, and will begin my work in Richmond a few weeks thereafter.

In preparation for my departure, the Vestry will work with the diocese to put in place an interim priest to pastor Saint Middle School until the arrival of your new permanent vicar. Saint Middle School needs a priest who can provide for all your needs, not simply a supply priest who will come on Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, and a short-term interim will be able to meet those needs. The Search Committee will continue with their thoughtful and prayerful process to find the vicar God will send to this place; please do not press them to rush through this process. The call will happen in God’s time; trust in the Lord.

Change is a bittersweet thing. I am looking forward to this new call, but I will be sad to leave you all. You have formed me as a priest and have celebrated my growth. I know that some of you wish that I could have stayed, but that was not the purpose of my role with you. You have grown in large part because you knew I was not meant to stay, and because you needed to prepare for a new vicar. This is all good. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and I know that Saint Middle School will be blessed with the vicar you need to continue to flourish.

Thank you for everything. Please keep me in your prayers as I move to this new call, and know that you will always be in mine.



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