We have just celebrated our fourteenth Easter Sunday at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake as priest and parish, as co-leaders in ministry. Each celebration of the Resurrection here has been special for me and for Catherinanne. Liturgy, outreach, pastoral care, hospitality and your attention toward each other, are all lived well in this church. These gifts have served to remind me on a regular basis that the promise of resurrection and the promise of new life that we proclaim in this Easter Season, is not some far of dream. It is a reality that can be made new with change and with a church’s willingness to embrace change. New life and change is integral in a community of faith. That being said, we know that change is never easy. Significant change takes a lot of prayer, discernment and reflection.
Today I want to affirm the need for change and renewal at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake and the need for change and renewal in my ministry. To that end, after an extensive period of prayer and discernment, I am now announcing that have accepted a call to be rector of St. Aidan’s Church in London, effective July 2, 2012. My last Sunday at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake will be Canada Day, Sunday July 1. I realize that many of you will be shocked by this news and saddened to see us move. While I am excited for what the future holds for me, and for you as a parish, this was an incredibly difficult decision. My heart breaks for what Catherinanne and I are leaving behind. At various times over the past eight years of my incumbency here, I have said no to invitations to interview for other parishes. I said no to other opportunities because I felt that there was work that we could yet accomplish together. I felt that I still had some of me to give to you and that you still had some of you to give to God in response to my leadership. Upon reflection, I now know that I have given all that I can to you, and you deserve a priest who will be able to bring you a fresh, energized approach to ministry – and you must trust that you will find that priest.
I want you to know how very much I love you all. I am very comfortable here and I have grown to love being part of the wider Windsor-Essex Community. This is a tremendous community and has been home for us in every sense of the word. We are proud to be residents of Tecumseh and to have had these many years in Windsor-Essex. Unfortunately, discipleship is not about being comfortable and the time has come for you and for me to be stirred from a collective complacency.
Nearly fourteen years ago I came here as a young priest who had a little more hair but had very little experience in ordained ministry – I had only one year in fact. At that time, St. Mark’s was hurting. Having had a poor experience of ministry in my first year, I was hurting too. I remember being very worried that you needed something so much more than I could give and that I would let you down. It never occurred to me how much I needed you. You have been fertile soil; in which has grown a community of faith. Catherinanne and I have been humbled to be a part of your great ministry. And I have been privileged to work as priest in a garden of faith and hope that you have cultivated. You have grown a church in a time when churches are simply not growing. I realize that leadership is an important part of that growth and I am proud of the leadership I have offered here for over 13 years. But I did not lead alone. I was fortunate to work alongside such strong lay leadership and to be the beneficiary of strong mission minded parishioners.
Please know that there is more growth ahead for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I pray that when the pain of this news subsides, you will realize that this affords you a great opportunity to step forward on the next steps of your growth. This parish now needs a new leader, with new ideas, and a new vision for the next steps on that journey. A new rector will help you move your ministry to the next level and embrace the new challenges that you face. While I would love to believe that I can do anything, I know that I have my limitations and I am praying that God will raise up the right leader for your bright future. I am proud to say that the next priest in this church will inherit strong lay leaders, a first class facility, and a parish strategically situated to meet the challenges of being church in this new millennium. He or she will be the envy of many priests who would covet the storehouse of gifts and talents that reside at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake.
Allow me to address some of the speculation that I have heard of late:
Over a year ago Catherinanne was hired as Director of Campus Ministry at Brescia University at UWO in London. At that time she also assumed the role of Chaplain to HMCS Prevost in London and Central Regional Chaplain for the Royal Canadian Navy Reserves. Many began to speculate that I would leave. A year ago I was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Many of you speculated that I would leave. In March I finished my doctor of ministry program. Again there was speculation that I would leave. For many these dots will no doubt all add up to this announcement – the truth is that these are simply unconnected events in life that have been instructive to my faith journey. This move is not because of Catherinanne. I am glad that we will be under one roof soon, as we have not relished being apart. I am not moving because I am a Canon or because my schooling is complete. I am moving because I am a priest of the Church and I am being called to be present now to another corner of God’s Church. I have come to this decision now because it is time for you to have new leadership and it is time for me to accept a new challenge. It is time for us to practice what we preach about resurrection and new life and about change. It is time for us to be renewed.
Catherinanne and I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done for us in these past fourteen years. You have been family to us. We have watched your children grow, we have said goodbye to many friends and saints of the church, we have celebrated many weddings and we have baptized many babies. You were so wonderfully attentive and pastoral to us when we suffered great loss in our families and for that I will never be able to say thank you enough. Together, we have journeyed through pain and sorrow – through joy and jubilation. We have survived two building campaigns together. We have built a house where “Love can Dwell.” I will be leaving this parish in July, but I will not be leaving you. I bring so much of you with me as I continue on my journey. I hope that you will bring some of me with you on your journey.
Today we heard that the disciples were locked into the room for fear in the wake of losing their leader. Thomas was not. His uncertainty was lived out openly as he forged ahead seeking Jesus. I realize that this news leaves many of you feeling uncertain in these moments. Let’s not be locked up in fear. We can strive ahead, even with feelings of uncertainty. As surely as Jesus penetrated the fear of the disciples and the uncertainly of Thomas, he will also penetrate your fear and uncertainty and be present to this community.
Catherinanne and I wish you every blessing as you begin a new phase on your journey.
I close with these words of HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW:
Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change
To something new, to something strange;
Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,
To-morrow be to-day.
We love you all – it has been a great ride ….God Bless you all!