“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter
This weekend was incredibly hard for very obvious reasons but it was also very liberating. I had been carrying around a lot of worry for a few weeks and that is never easy. So standing before a congregation that I love so dearly and delivering the news that I would leave St. Mark’s in July was difficult, but it feels so much better to have ‘the news’ out there.
One of the reasons that it is so much better stems from the first part of Lao Tzu’s quote above. Being deeply loved by someone gives strength. I could not imagine being more loved and feeling stronger than I do at this time. Like most at St. Mark’s, I have no clear vision of what the future holds. I know a little about the Christian community that I will be joining. Presumably, they know a little about me. But collectively we really do not know a lot about each other. So I am preparing to set out on a journey with Jesus as my Compass and my Guide. But make no mistake; I cannot be certain about where that journey leads. Judging by what I have seen so far, I suspect it will lead us to wonderful places of discipleship with a community that shares a zeal for mission and an interest in the transformative power of living the Gospel. Setting out on a journey with limited knowledge of where it might go requires strength and I am drawing that strength from being loved by so many. The people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake responded so well to the news of my departure. In fact, when I finished my announcement that I would be leaving, I got a standing ovation! What does that mean? – kidding! The love and appreciation mean so much. We have received countless messages via Twitter, Facebook, email, and this thing called a phone – so much so that it is overwhelming. Then there were the messages sent by homing pigeons – kidding again! We have also been so surprised at the messages from across Windsor Essex from outside the church community. Also touching was the messages from those people of St. Aidan who await our arrival. It means so very much to be so very loved. Catherinanne and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the care and love that you have all expressed. I also want to express my gratitude for the messages that I have received from clergy within the Deanery of Essex and to the Clergy in the Deanery of Medway who sent messages in anticipation of my arrival in July.
The second half of the above quote is also instructive to what I am currently feeling. Loving someone deeply gives you courage. While it may difficult for some people to understand, the decision to depart from St. Mark’s at this time is not simply about what is best for Kevin or for Kevin and Catherinanne. This move is also about what is best for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I love this church and the people in it very deeply. That love for you is what gave ne the courage needed to decide to answer the leading of the Spirit and be stirred from my complacency and to allow this church to be stirred from its complacency. There comes a time when a church needs its leader to have the courage to make change happen. If the church leader is sitting in the comfortable pew that decision becomes a very personal choice. Coming to the conclusion that the Spirit was leading me to acknowledge that new leadership will be necessary for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake was tough – it is hard on my ego to acknowledge that a group of people who I love so much need a change in leadership. But loving so deeply has afforded me enough courage to heed the leading of the Spirit.
The parish response to this challenge is wonderful. I never really doubted that it would be any different. Winston Churchill said that “the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” St. Mark’s by-the-Lake has always been a church of optimists. Over the last 14 years I have marvelled at the ability of the people of God in this church to find opportunity in every challenge. the Parishioners of St. Mark’s have been through leadership changes that have been less than pretty. In each and every challenge this church has faced, the people have come together and found great opportunity. I see these the months ahead no differently. The strong and dedicated people of this church will come together to make the best of this opportunity that has been presented.
Now we forge ahead together toward July 1, 2012. We will have many worship opportunities together at St. Mark’s and I encourage you to come out so that we might enjoy each other in the sacredness of liturgy and in the joy of community fellowship. There will hopefully be an opportunity to formally say farewell in the weeks ahead. Please feel free to come and see me with any questions or concerns that you have. Feel free to stop by the office and reminisce about the last thirteen plus years. I would welcome hearing from you.