What a week this has been! And we are not done yet. I have wanted to put my thoughts to blog, but it has been difficult to find a moment to sit and write. What drove me to sit down this morning was the fact that today would have been my dad’s 96th birthday. He loved his birthday celebrations right up to his 93rd. So I took some time to look back at some pictures and share remember so many happy days. I am not so much sad today or even emotional as much as I am full of gratitude that we had such a wonderful father who lived such a long and productive life. We have so much to be thankful for that it would be a little foolhardy to mope or feel sorry for myself on a day that really should give pause to give thanks and celebrate.
Dad was very much on my mind on Sunday evening at The Celebration of New Ministry at St. Aidan’s, as was my mom and, indeed, my whole family. Whenever there is a big transition or rite of passage in life being separated from family does give pause. As we were entering the church so full and so replete with clergy in their beautiful vestments I could not help but think, “Wow, mom and dad would love this!” In a way mom and dad were with me as were my siblings.
What a night it was. I cannot express enough gratitude for the support of the diocesan clergy, as well as the ecumenical guests who attended and vested. I was quite humbled by your support. There were clergy from the United Church, the Roman Catholic Church, The Presbyterian Church, The Coptic Orthodox Church, The Universalist Church, and of course of preacher, Dr. Jeff Japinga from the Reformed Church in America. In all there were over 30 clergy vested for the evening and at least a couple of more who joined us and were not vested. It was tremendous support and I am most grateful. Our Diocese was so present and our Bishop’s support through Archdeacon Richard Salt was a gift. Also present were friends from Windsor-Essex and from St. Mark’s by-the-Lake in particular. Thank you John, Evelyn, Chris, Al, Margo, Joe, Kim, Matt, Carolynne, Dale, Kim, Rob, and Sue for making the trip up the 401. How nice it was to see you all.
The liturgy itself was a real celebration of the generations of ministry at St. Aidan’s. It was great to have children, teenagers, young adults, young families, and our seniors all participate in the liturgy and in the celebration. David Weaver was awesome and our choir was awesome. The music was tremendous. Catherinanne sang with her father accompanying. She sang a song that she also sang at my ordination, and my induction at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake – Follow Me. She nailed it of course as did Mike – her dad! Everyone has been raving about the great father daughter team they are. Our Director of Children Youth and Family Ministry Trish O’Neil (who was such a huge help in getting this liturgy together) highlighted this to be one of her favorite parts of the evening. Of that moment, “It felt like home,” she said. To which I nodded and said – “Yes – It feels like home.”
And who will ever forget our guest preacher Jeff Japinga who boldly began his homily asking, “Who do you think you are?” With tone too! It was brilliant. His sermon asked the community to consider who we think we are. He reminded us that we must remember that “It all begins with God.” Sadly that can easily be forgotten when we celebrate roles and we celebrate individuals. It is easy any one of us to think it all beings with “me.” Jeff in his skillful and gentle way nudged us to turn our attention to where it ought to be – God! But the night did not end with the dismissal in the liturgy! Our celebration afterward was also an event. St. Aidan’s knows how to throw a party! Calling that a wine and cheese is really not fair. It was an event! I was so pleased that so many people stayed on and had ‘an appropriate adult beverage’ after the service.
The people of St. Aidan’s have done well to welcome me as rector – thank you for that. Our time together on Sunday was a snapshot of the many ways that God is at work in this community. Our time together highlighted the gifts in our music ministry, the gifts in our children’s ministry, the gifts in our youth ministry, the gifts in our leadership ministry, the gifts in our liturgical ministry, the gifts in our hospitality ministry, the gifts in this community. With all of those gifts laid out before us we now ask, “Who do we think we are?” It all begins with God. The gifts, the love, the potential, the drive, the desire to change hearts and lives, the willingness to sacrifice and suffer for others, the wish to go out and make disciples of many, to embrace our own discipleship – It all begins with God.
That brings me back to the beginning. Remember way back at the beginning of this dissertation – I wrote about my dad and how I was thinking of him on Sunday evening. Dad never asked for more than he needed. Dad always deflected attention toward his family and away from him. If you had the privilege to spend time with my father you would have heard plenty about the gifts that he had in his life and most of it was related to family. Dad was not an overly ‘religious’ man. But dad had a firm idea of who he was and whose he was. In his humble and meek way my dad understood that it was all to the glory of God.
Sunday night was a great gift and we celebrate all that we experienced to the glory of God. And now we ask, if knowing that all of this begins with God, will we respond?
God asks, “Who will go for me? Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen, will prophesy and preach?
And who, when few bid welcome,
will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow, will walk the road I show?” – John Bell