“The time has come”, the Walrus said, “to speak of many things…” Lewis Carroll
This letter comes to you as we approach a new year and a new way of being, and as we prepare to make another turn around the sun.
It has been four years since David Perkins requested that Bishop Hollerith assign me to St. Andrew’s, during the interim time of a search for a new rector, after Rob Marston’s retirement. It was with both joy and trepidation that I accepted the assignment, knowing that it would “set me apart” for that time and require an eventual end date. It would also mean that the end date would mean moving on, as all deacons do, numerous times during years of ministry.
That time is upon me, as I look back gratefully to the time we have walked together. In these four years, you have embraced much change, suffered some losses of the faithful, called a new rector and associate, and accumulated three associate clergy…. riches unusual for a congregation of your size. As required, I submitted a resignation to the new rector when she was called, and we determined that I could be helpful in the immediate future as she assembled a staff and became familiar with the congregation. The time frame of diaconal terms of parish service is usually 3-4 years, with retirement age being 72. I began to hear the clock ticking about a year ago, knowing that I was in my final year with you.
The norm in the Episcopal Church is that whenever any clergyperson leaves, there is a one year period of very little-to-no contact between that congregation and the former staff person, and none of it as a pastoral function. After that time, no clergyperson is welcomed into any liturgy or activity without the express invitation of the rector.
Those are the rules I have lived by these 20 years. As we lined up in front of St Paul’s for my ordination, Isabel Steilberg turned to me and said, “You will never belong to a church again.” It felt like a blow at the time, and there is an echo each time I leave a parish. This is no exception, and is especially hard as this has been my church home for most of my life as a layperson. I wondered four years ago if I could return home after 25 years away, changed, but with so much history. You have been very gracious in welcoming me into your lives, sharing joys and sorrows, agreeing and disagreeing, suffering through some sermons that were too long, and too much about the pain of the world. We have walked through a wilderness of sorts, and like Moses, I am not called to go into this new era that you are discerning and fashioning in your visioning of God’s call to you.
God’s call to me is usually like this: He pulls me close, watches me fall in love with people, opens my eyes and my ears and my heart to the wonder of the lives around me, lets me get real comfortable, and then…. whoosh…. He throws me back out into the world again.
I leave you with an abundance of appreciation and love for all that you are, all that you will be as you enter a new time in this parish’s salvation history, and with a heart warmed and softened by your goodness in my life. Know that I carry you in my heart, remember you in my prayers, and am better for the time we have spent together.
Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again. Thank you.
My love to each of you,
Over the past 100 years, the people of St. Andrew’s have been blessed by the faithful ministry of many different clergy people. At some point in each of those relationships, the time comes to say good-bye. It’s hard.
During her years as our deacon, Kathy Gray has helped parishioners navigate times of crisis and chaos; fed and cared for the poor and needy of our local community; called us, through thought-provoking sermons, to live out our Christian calling in the world; loved and listened to our youth; ministered faithfully to our members living in local retirement communities; served with grace on our altar; and laced it all with her sneaky and wonderful sense of humor. Kathy has served this congregation with great love, passion, and skill, and we have been blessed by her presence in our midst.
Kathy will be taking the next few weeks off. She will be back at St. Andrew’s on January 27, her last Sunday. Kathy has asked that there be no special recognition of her during or after the service, and she would like to sit in the congregation rather than serve at the altar on the 27th. We will honor her wishes.
To thank Kathy for her loving and faithful ministry in our midst, we will collect a “purse” for her. If you would like to contribute to this gift, please make out a check to St. Andrew’s with “Kathy Gray” on the memo line and return it to the parish office by Friday, February 1, 2019.
Please hold Kathy and St. Andrew’s in your prayers during this time of transition. The God who brought us all together in this place for this time is faithful, holding our futures in his loving hand. Giving thanks for Kathy and her ministry, may we trust in God’s love and mercy for us all as we enter this new season of our lives.