The Long Loneliness

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” – These are the words of Dorothy Day. I believe those words reflect why I am a priest in the Anglican Church today.

On June 05, 1998 at St. Matthew’s Church in Heart’s Delight, NL I was ordained to the order of Priest. It seems a long time ago and yet it feels like it was just yesterday. I remember pondering that day what was happening. There was a lot of confusion for me as there was a lot happening for me at the time. I was conflicted about my vocation as I was dealing with the stresses of serving in the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. I had learned in my first year of ordained ministry, serving as a Deacon from August of the previous year, that life in ministry is not always what one might think it could be. I had a great parish and a fine parish priest to work with Labrador West. At the same time I was dealing with the fact that in three years of formation at Huron College and at the Parish of St. Michael and All Angels in London, ON, I had changed. It was one thing for me to come to grips with the growth that I had experienced and it was quite another for me to deal with that growth and change in an environment where support for me from the bishop was not evident. (And that is being diplomatic).  So what happened that day 9 years ago? Why was I becoming Priest?

What I suspected that day, I know today. I could only conclude then that I knew love and community in the church. Today I know that more than ever. Dorothy Day was a great spiritual leader, and a socialist who worked through her faith and witness to be present to the poor, the lonely and the forgotten.  She wrote about the “long loneliness.”  Her reflection was that we had all known that place in our lives and truthfully, I understood those words.  In my life I also knew the love that came with community. I found that love the a community of love known as family. I found love in the community in which I grew up, Whiteway.  And I also came to know love in the community of the church. The great irony for me that Feast day of St. Boniface in 1998 was that the community of the church was a place of great paradox. There, in that church, that day, was a community of persons who had nurtured me and my faith and there was tremendous love.  Yet, embodied in the Episcopal presence of the bishop was a lack of trust and support that oozed the long loneliness of judgment that could leave a person broken. We all charged on and the Spirit spoke. Even in the brokenness of that night there was light and life!

Not long after that day the framework was laid for me to begin to seek out a place to find love and find community. I found it here in Huron and most especially in this parish of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake.  I am Priest because each and every journey I have taken into the “long loneliness” has ended at the altar with the love and support of the community of Christ. Simply put, flawed as it might be – I Love the Church because I have been loved by it. I am pleased to say that being at St. Mark’s gives many opportunities to be reminded of the community of love to which I am called. It is also very life-giving to serve with so may wonderful people and work with others and being community where others might be rescued from the long loneliness to be embraced by a community of love and respect.

Catherinanne is away again this year on this date. Again this year she made certain that I was reminded of the love of community. Oddly, I have been living some long loneliness with Catherinanne being away for work for most of the last month, and she will be away for most of the next eight weeks. Catherinanne continues to be my strength and she continues to offer such strong support. I have a good wife and I have a committed partner in ministry. She never misses and opportunity to offer affirmation and love and it means the world to me. Thank you Catherinanne for your kind words today. Love you! It is good to have your support even when you are miles away.

My prayer on this feast Day of St. Boniface, as I look back to my ordination to the scared order of priest, is that I might look to find the traveler on his/her journey who is living the long loneliness and offer the love of the community to which I belong. God keep me firm in the promises that I made, not in my ordination, but in my baptism, that I would “strive for peace and unity among all people and that I would respect the dignity of every human being.”

I finish with this collect from the ordination liturgy;

God our Father, Lord of all the world,
through your Son you have called us into the fellowship
of your universal Church:
hear our prayer for your faithful people
that in their vocation and ministry
each may be an instrument of your love,
and give to your servants now to be ordained
the needful gifts of grace;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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