This letter about my retirement goes out to the parish today; it was announced in church on Sunday. “There is both joy and sadness in this for me.” A great deal of sadness, to be sure, because these have been grace-filled years. But I look forward to having more time and energy for my family, and for exploring other areas of ministry, including leading faith-enrichment programs including quiet days and evenings and adult forums. So you haven’t heard the last from me! My last Sunday as rector of Good Shepherd Church will be Feb. 24.
I write today to share with the entire parish the news that was announced in church this past Sunday morning.
After a considerable period of prayer and discernment, I’ve decided that the time has come for me to retire. There is both joy and sadness in this for me. It wasn’t an easy decision to reach, since I do love this grace-filled community and I feel blessed by my time here. However, I also am very much looking forward to having more time to spend with my growing family, and I’m confident that this is the right time for me to take this step.
I had plans: places to go, things to do. But life said no. Stop, rest; that is the gift of this day. And one of the gifts of age is obedience to these leadings. So I came home to the fireplace and the view of snow falling, falling, falling to the lawn that was yellow with leaves this morning but looks like winter now.
One of the things my sisters found when they emptied my parents’ house after my mother died was a journal my father kept during his service in the Army in Europe during World War II.
It was an introduction to a much younger version of the man I knew. My father very rarely talked to us about the war, though we did know that it had something to do with the fact that he despised Spam for the rest of his days.
He was 19 years old when he was drafted in 1943. He was sent oversees in 1944, straight into Battle of the Bulge, and he started the journal midway through that terrible winter. This is how it begins:
I am going to keep this diary so that in future years I may remember more closely the day to day events of my Army career. I especially want to remember—in the days of normal living coming again in the not too distant future—the days of hell of our present existence in combat. For, as Sherman said, war really is hell—crowded with misery, discomfort, and uncertainty—uncertainty as to whether or not you’ll be alive in the next minute.
We’re living in difficult times, and that has felt especially true this past week or so.
I don’t know about you, but I feel a little beat up by all of the campaign rhetoric as we approach Tuesday’s elections. And I still feel very deeply the shock of the of the massacre last Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Among other things. There are also the troubles and worries in our own lives. We all have them.
And it is so good to be here together today, to hold these things in community.
That is what we do when times are hard. Or even, for that matter, when times are good. We come together in community, to walk together through our difficult times. To cry together. To laugh and to celebrate together.
And today we are celebrating, we’re celebrating our community here.
This is All Saints Sunday. It’s the observance of the feast that commemorates all the saints, both known and unknown to us. God knows them all, of course.
Orange blaze stole for this morning’s healing Eucharist. A visual prayer for God’s healing grace for those who were wounded on Saturday in Pittsburgh, and for all victims of violence, especially gun violence. May the dead be received into the comfort of eternal rest. May those who mourn be comforted. May those who suffer now in body, mind, or spirit be made whole again. Loving God, heal us and heal our world so that your peace might prevail. Look with compassion on all for whom we pray, and strengthen us to be your instruments of healing in the world. Amen.
I visited a school yesterday where I noticed a hand-lettered sign in the health office that said, “I was not put on this earth to be shot at,” and it broke my heart.
#wearorange is dedicated to honoring the lives of Americans affected by gun violence. For me, it’s a prayer for change, an end to that violence. May there come a day when I wear a bright orange stole on Oct. 31 to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve and nothing more.
We saw this quilt at the New Mexico State Capital, which has an impressive collection of art. It was created by 5th graders in response to the events of September 11, 2001, and it’s on indefinite loan: “It is our wish that as many people as possible see this, and pass its message on, so that peace in our world can prevail.” In light of the events of this past week, it seemed appropriate to share.
In our grief and anger after yesterday’s shooting in Pittsburgh, we must hold onto our faith in the healing power of God’s love, and to our hope for a better world. But there is nothing passive about this hope. We cry out for justice. We must teach our children to live in harmony so they can believe in the peaceful message of this quilt, and we must carefully examine our own speech to be sure we ourselves model that harmony for them.
We must remind our leaders that we vote and that we will hold them accountable. The hate talk must stop. We must demand common-sense gun laws, so the AR-15s can be taken out of the hands of madmen.
We need leaders who will speak with compassion and bring us together in unity. This has to stop, and it’s on us to stop it.