It has been a year since Pastor Kathleen at Good Shepherd Episcopal retired. Father Rob, our interim rector, arrived on All Saints’ Sunday six weeks later.
So here we are. And where are we? Not in an optimal situation.
The congregation had not had an update on our rector search for a while, and since the work of the profile committee is long since over I had no source of inside information.
Then the most recent issue of our print church newsletter arrived by old-fashioned postal mail. The news was not good. We’d had three applicants, all of whom notified the search committee that they had accepted, or intended to accept, other positions.
Fr. Rob’s contract ends at the end of October. Would he consider extending it? I don’t know. But since he comes from Tulare, far to the north, and since his wife is facing some medical issues with respect to one leg, I wonder if he would. If he doesn’t I understand, but that would be unfortunate since he has provided us with some valuable leadership during this interim period.
So we keep on keeping on and the process continues.
Not long after Easter I wrote about the stained glass window under which I sit each week and how I thought it must be the Emmaus story. I was wrong. I recently had the opportunity to view the final version of our Good Shepherd video, which one of our very talented members created as part of our rector search. It turns out that the window was meant to depict the Last Supper. There are only two disciples in the image, so to me it could be Emmaus. On the other hand, the presence of the chalice indicates the Last Supper, as the Emmaus stort only mentions bread and not wine.
Speaking of the video, it was a long time in the making, but I believe it was well worth the effort. It provides a good history of the congregation as well as a nice picture of who we are today. You’ll notice that I have a small part at the very beginning. I was happy to be part of the project.
After many months the work of the Good Shepherd profile committee has been completed. The ministry portfolio document is on the Office of Transition Ministry Web site. The parish profile is on the Good Shepherd web site and I feel good about it. It was a collaborative effort, but a lot of the writing was mine. The “Our Current Community” section through the list of valley employers is mine, and is the discussion of the Church Assessment Tool Survey.
The layout and formatting were done by our communications director extraordinaire and I think we have a great document.
Yesterday we had a ceremony at both services (yes, I was there for the 8:00 a.m. Rite I service) to hand the baton (and we had a physical baton) from the profile committee to the search committee. We are now officially taking applications for our next rector and the work is in the hands of the search committee. That brings a big sigh of relief!
This was originally intended as an email to Fr. Rob, our interim rector. But, I thought, Fr. Rob has enough to deal with. He has two funerals to plan and has to deal with the unexpected resignation of the chairman of our rector search committee. This in addition to all of his normal responsibilities. He doesn’t need to hear me kvetch right now. Fortunately my blog friends normally seem indulgent of my occasional kvetching.
This all has to do with Fr. Rob’s sermon on Sunday. I have noticed that he tends to take the Bible at face value. For example, he made reference to the end of the book of Mark, where Jesus says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” However, this comes from a passage that is not in the oldest manuscripts we have. Scholarship generally dates this passage to the early second century A.D., a few decades after the composition of the main body of the book.
The second reading for the past few weeks has come from the epistle I Peter. Fr. Rob seems to give the disciple/apostle Peter credit for this work, but modern scholarship generally dates that work to the early second century as well. I have to admit, however, that he is preaching a sermon and not teaching a seminary class.
The more disconcerting issue for me is Fr. Rob’s focus of late on evangelism. The Episcopal Church has long shied away from such a focus, in spite of the fact that the official name of the national church is the The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Our presiding bishop since November 2015, Michael Curry, is working hard to change this. Fr. Rob, based on what he said in a recent sermon, seems to have long believed in the importance of evangelism. He certainly addressed this clearly and directly on Sunday. He even used the “w” word: “witnessing.” That’s enough to send me running from the room screaming, though I didn’t. Too many memories of the minister and youth group at my Methodist church here in Hemet in junior high and high school.
I have said this before, but it bears repeating as it is something that I struggle with on an ongoing basis. I believe that temperamentally and theologically I fit better into the Reform Jewish perspective than anywhere else. That, however, is not my heritage. It’s not where I come from. And I do love Episcopal worship.
So I just keep on keeping on. And I appreciate greatly the leadership that Fr. Rob is providing in this time of transition.
At Good Shepherd Episcopal here in Hemet most of the acolytes are part of one family. In fact they are siblings. They constitute the entirety of the Sunday School class. There are five of them. The oldest, a girl, started college last fall.
These kids have not had it easy. I don’t know what happened to their mother, but they were initially being raised by their father, I believe. A number of years ago their father committed suicide. The children’s grandmother, Martha, took on the responsibility of raising them. She took the task seriously and made sure that they were active participants at Good Shepherd.
Last week the kids came home from school and discovered their grandmother dead. How shocking can that possibly have been for the youngsters. For the short term the four youngest have an uncle with whom they are able to live. For the long term almost everything is unknown.
Amazingly, the kids were all at church on Sunday, and three of them were acolytes. But maybe not so amazing. Being with their church community is best possible place they could be right now.
The good news is that Good Shepherd is a tight-knit community. I know that whatever the five might need someone in the church will find a way to provide. In fact, based on Father Rob’s comment on Sunday, members of the parish immediately sprang into action on hearing the news.
For right now the best thing I can do is to pray for the family.
You may recall that I am part of the profile committee at Good Shepherd Episcopal, which is responsible for the first step in calling our new rector. I thought perhaps I had been dropped from the committee, as a member of the vestry (the governing board) announced a few weeks ago that the vestry had approved the members of that committee and I had heard nothing. But on a recent Sunday the Senior Warden (board president) asked me what days worked and what days didn’t for me to meet. We had our first meeting last week. It was a video meeting with the Canon (clergy assistant to the bishop) for Transitional Ministries.
The process is very clear and set out. I thought there might be nothing for me to do on the committee, as the other four members are all long-time members with strong personalities. But as it turns out, my role is to be the point person for access to the online Church Assessment Tool (CAT), which is a survey of the parish. That’s a good role for me, computer geek that I am.
It will be an interesting process.
Yesterday was my first time at Good Shepherd since Kathleen’s departure. The Sunday before last was the church’s first Sunday without Pastor Kathleen, but Terry and I were in El Cajon for our nephew Race’s birthday celebration. It was definitely a liminal experience yesterday.
Our supply priest, Rev. Canon Victoria, filled in during the summer last year, and I really liked her. She very much met my expectations yesterday. I’m glad that she’ll be at Good Shepherd for all of October with the exception of next week.
Yesterday’s service was definitely different. Instead of the elaborate Prayers of the People with music, we used Rite II Form VI with some additions. We didn’t acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries, and thanksgivings or do the prayers for travel or other needs, though those were listed in the bulletin.
It’s going to be a long transition, so I had best learn to be flexible.
Pastor Kathleen said goodbye to us on 11 September. She had announced her retirement earlier in the summer, so we all knew that the day was coming. Attendance was high for the 10:30 service and the congregation was sad. Kathleen departed from the standard Pentecost green in favor of Advent blue. The parament on the lectern was the Alpha Omega symbol. Just as at the end of the three-part “All Good Things” that brought Star Trek: The Next Generation to a close, there was a conclusion and all was wrapped up. We had closure.
That was a good thing, because in the Episcopal Church the rule is strict. The departing priest is not allowed to have contact with members of her former parish. There is good reason for this. It is important that we as a parish look forward and not back. We have a profile to write, a search committee to form, and a new rector to call. An interim priest who specializes in assisting congregations in this process will join us in due time.
I was never a high-maintenance parishioner. But I knew if I had a question, needed assistance, or just wanted to share something I could send Kathleen an email and I would get a prompt and helpful response. But no more. Kathleen knows the rules and would not respond to my email were I to send her one.
I will miss Pastor Kathleen. We all will. But the process is clear and the process tells us to move forward.
As I discussed yesterday, when I look at the statistics for this blog I see some recurring themes with respect to those who find this blog via search. One of my blog entries that keeps popping up is one about Eucharistic Prayer C in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I went back and looked at it and I feel a little bit bad about that, because it’s not a very good blog entry. I don’t really say much at all there.
I think Eucharistic Prayer C deserves more attention than that. It is my favorite of all of the Eucharistic prayers. In the Episcopal churches I have attended the standard prayer on most Sundays is Eucharistic Prayer A. At Good Shepherd Episcopal here in Hemet, in the past year we have switched to Eucharistic Prayer B the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Easter. It’s a nice change, because it forces me to listen to the words, to read along in the prayer book, as opposed to the very familiar words of Eucharistic Prayer A. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a worship service where Eucharistic Prayer D was used.
For me, however, it is Eucharistic Prayer C that has the most powerful words.
God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of
glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.
At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.
But the prayer also admonishes us:
Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our
eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver
us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace
only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for
renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one
body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the
world in his name.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.
The words that stick with me are:
Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only,
and not for strength;
for pardon only, and not for renewal.
Those are words that I need to hear. And hear again.
I wish that I had the opportunity to experience Eucharistic Prayer C more often in worship, but it’s always there in the prayer book whenever I want to turn to it.
You can find Eucharistic Prayer C in the The (Online) Book of Common Prayer. Navigate: The Holy Eucharist > The Holy Eucharist: Rite II > Eucharistic Prayer C.
I wrote recently about my rector’s upcoming departure. When a rector leaves an Episcopal church there is a strict, formal process. It’s is business as usual for the parish as a whole until after the rector’s final Sunday, though less so for the vestry, the church’s governing board. No activity around finding a new rector takes place until after the old rector leaves, and the outgoing rector has no more contact with the parish.
When the old rector leaves an interim rector is called. He or she may show up immediately after the outgoing rector’s last Sunday or the interim might arrive a few weeks later with another available priest filling in in the meantime. The first task after the rector’s departure is to create a parish profile. That profile describes the parish and its personality in detail. It gives the search committee and candidates a template to measure whether a given candidate might be a good match for the parish. Only after the parish profile is complete does the search committee begin its work of finding a new rector.
And why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because the Senior Warden (board president) asked me to serve on the profile committee. I was surprised, flattered, and honored. It will be a challenge, but I look forward to serving.