Yesterday was Fr. Rob’s last Sunday at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. We will miss him. At least I will miss him. But I think it’s accurate to say that we collectively will miss him.
Fr. Rob first joined us on All Saints’ Sunday 2016. He has provided us with some superb leadership. He certainly gave the profile committee on which I served some much-needed guidance. I believe he has done the same for the vestry and the search committee. He has taken a personal interest as I have been developing my web and writing business.
I haven’t agreed with him on everything. We disagree on the dating of certain books of the Bible as well as on Biblical exegesis. I don’t like his emphasis on evangelism. But I love his high church mentality and his respect for the liturgy. He brought vestments out of the sacristy that I believe had sat untouched for a number of years.
It would be good if he could stay a while longer since we have not yet found a new rector, but the mileage we have paid him to come down from Tulare means that his earnings are maxed out in the eyes of the Church Pension Fund. That, combined with the wording of his contract, means that an extension is not possible.
Fr. Rob is one of those people about whom I can honestly say:
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better,
but because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
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.