Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith, October 2017

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Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith

“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

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“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning…
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”                                                                                                                T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding V”

I was 13 years old, launching into my teen years and all the joys and heartbreaks these years can bring. It was a warm September Sunday morning as we gathered for worship at Chews Landing United Methodist Church. There were thousands of people – at least to my teenaged eyes – staring at me as I stood on the chancel steps with Pastor Bridges.  Typical for teens of this age, I was still physically morphing toward maturity, so acne was very much the vogue on my face, and my hair was then full and blazing red as was my face I am sure.

You see, on this warm September Sunday, I made my profession before everyone that I felt God was calling me to ministry! This is how it was done in the Methodist Church in those days. After worship, I was grateful that more people than not offered their prayers and support for the journey ahead. And then at my sixteenth year Pastor Bridges was transferred to another pastorate, and Pastor Long came to our church. Pastor Long was older, longer serving in ministry, and had seen it all in life. His commendation to me was to “go to college, grow up some more, then come back to see if this call is REALLY God’s work.” How stupid I thought Pastor Long was that day … how angry I was that day … yet how wise and discerning he truly was that day. I never had the chance to thank Pastor Long in person for this wisdom, so I do so now.

Graduation from high school led to college years in Western Pennsylvania. A “Christian” college by formation and foundation required chapel weekdays and Sunday evening. By the way, it was the late 1960’s, so if you watched the recent Ken Burn’s documentary The Vietnam War you will know what that time was like! While Steven Nash wailed “Love the one you are with” we studied, partied, partied, studied some, partied more … well, I did graduate I suspect because they wanted me out of there! The blessing was meeting Marilyn in my third year, her first, and 46 years later, she still considers renewing my one year contracts.

Moving into the working world with my wife, my Dad’s venerable wisdom was heard – “Have a family, you take care of them. Be responsible!” This wisdom was formed in his life of responsibility for my mother and me, and I could not ask for a better model of this way of living. To my father’s credit, there were many other wisdom offerings, such as be compassionate … be fair … be generous … be humble … be helpful to those who need it. Paul W. Gennett, Sr. left my life much too early for my liking, but his wisdom has never left me. I began a career in business, first in sales, then management locally to management corporately, 20 years surrounded by “people” in human resource management and consulting. It seemed working with people in sharing my gifts, guidance, and encouragement that I encountered in those teenage years never left me. I just simply followed another path. And then …

Moving to Pittsburgh in 1985, we quickly became actively immersed in worship, service, and parish life of Christ Church. Then one cold and damp February evening in 1987, our priest, the Reverend Rodger Wood, asked to meet with me after work. We met in his office, and after a somewhat rambling prayer, Rodger stared at me in silence. And then he pointed his finger toward me saying, “Well, let’s get on with this. Everybody sees it – you should become a priest.” Suddenly I was a 13 year old teenager standing on the chancel steps all over again … but this time, it felt right round again. So another two years through the Episcopal aspirant process, then on to Virginia Seminary at the tender age of 40 — wait, when was the last course paper I wrote, and how did I do that again?? Returning to Pittsburgh for ordination as deacon to priest in 1992, and then …

Twenty-five years of seeking to serve God and the people who called me to care for them and share in ministry echoes the words of T. S. Eliot for me — “What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning …”
On November 1, the journey to Chapter 22 begins for you, the people of St. Thomas’s, and Volume 3 of my life journey opens to a new, blank page for us both. Yet not so blank when we think of it as we bring the richness of lives and faith lived fully from our nine years together into this next ventures. As result of our life and time together, I pray those I have hurt or offended, please forgive me. To those I have blessed, bless others. Those whom I have helped, help others. To all who have invited into your homes, your lives, your joys and sorrows, your hopes and dreams, I am humbled and thankful for our time together.

The words of blessing from John Donohue echo joyfully for us both I pray, with a little awe and wonder mixed in as well. Yet I pray you embrace this blessing as my prayer for you all in the days to come, and ask you embrace them for the journey ahead for Marilyn and me …

“Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”
John Donohue. “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

With gratitude, love, and hope for you all, my thanks for inviting me to share  these nine years of mutual ministry together. May God, our loving and lover God in Christ, bless you, bless you, bless you!

With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ

Fr. Paul+