“Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you … You are witnesses of these things. “ Luke 24:44, 48
We return to those routines of life after our summer rest. Vacation memories collected and stored for another season. School supplies purchased and children back to early-to-bed-to-early-to-rise school days [children say “aww” to parents … parents say “yay” to everyone]. Our 20,000+ neighbors of the University of Delaware return as does the rhythm of our campus ministry gatherings. We also return to those rhythms of worship in this place. Yet this time will be different in a few ways.
One way is the BIG celebration of our 175 years of ministry and mission to Newark on Sunday, September 24. PLEASE NOTE we will gather for ONE service this day at 9:30 a.m. We will remember our past while looking to our present and future for God’s onward call in this place, in our time, as this people of the Jesus Movement. We will bless and commission ALL ministries and ministers that serve our parish family! We will admit, bless, and pray onward our 2017-2018 Confirmation Class and their leaders, Bob Rys and Teri Quinn Gray. We will worship with a liturgy crafted especially for this day, and we will gather outside to bless our new welcoming signage at the exit of our driveway. We share our deep gratitude for the leadership of the events of our 175th anniversary year – Tom Fairchild, Laura Greene, and Nicole Cebula. We will remember … commit … bless … now and onward, together.
The other way is our coming closer to my taking leave as your companion in ministry and rector these nine years on October 31. As many have heard me say, I believe I have done, with your help and God’s help, the work and ministry I can in this time and chapter of your lives. The S.W.E.E.P.S. ministries are in place for future service. The finances are healthier for the near-term, while the work of a living stewardship is in the hands of the Vestry servant leaders. The property is in better structural condition, and the Grove is YOURS for the future. I have been blessed and am grateful to have completed these things with you and God in this time, in this place.
At the August 19th meeting of the Vestry, I provided a Covenant of Taking Leave from St. Thomas’s. This covenant is simply, in writing, a clear understanding of our life and relationship in the next pages and chapter of St. Thomas’s Parish. Here are the important points for the understanding of all in our parish family:
- My resignation signifies that all my priestly, pastoral, liturgical, and administrative duties for the parish are completed. As St. Paul writes to his beloved Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
- This completion is committed to the transition period before the next rector is called. St. Thomas’s needs time and space between rectors to discover who you are now, where God is calling you onward, and what type of leadership gifts are needed onward for mutual ministry.
- I will not officiate or assist at any liturgical function in the parish [wedding, baptism, burial office] for at least one year. I may wish to attend a function as a member of the congregation only, and then with understanding of the Wardens, Vestry, and current transition minister. I will continue to exercise my priestly ministry at other parishes as invited at some point, but for a season I am looking forward to being a “pew sitter” with Marilyn.
- The Rector Discretionary Fund will be returned to the Wardens and Treasurer of the parish to be used by appointed lay representatives as needed.
- The keys to the church facility will be returned, and clearly marked, for use by future priests. I expect I will be the ONLY person in Newark not to have a key to St. Thomas’s!
This covenant simply gives appropriate space for you to move forward to Chapter 23 in this transitioning time, and gives Marilyn and I appropriate space as we take our steps into this next volume of our life and work together. As Frederick Buechner reminds me, the root of our word goodbye emerges from the 13th century Middle English expression when friends take leave from one another – God be with you!
God be with you, dear sisters and brothers of this place, in this time … God be with you!
With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ