The memory is not complete – it has grown fuzzy over the years. But I do recall I was nervous, unsure of the future, not knowing what I had gotten myself into and not knowing exactly what I was doing, where I was going or where I would end up. Yet at the same time I was filled with pride, and a newly minted education making me sure that almost single handedly I would change the church or at least a significant portion of it.
The year was 1970; the day was the Feast of Saints Peter & Paul, June 29th; the place was St Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo NY; the occasion my ordination as a deacon (the first of the two step process of becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church.) I had graduated from seminary weeks before and the day after this service I would pack up my belongings and move to the Cathedral in Albany, NY to serve as the junior member of the staff.
Those were strange and heady days. It was one of those brief windows where I thought I knew a lot, having forgotten my grandfather’s oft-repeated wisdom that “you have to know a lot to know how little you really know.”
And now in what seems like a couple of years it is 4 decade later and I am still unsure of the future. But I have learned that I cannot change the church or even another person. I can only change myself and offer that to God in the hopes it is raw material fit to be transformed into something that will help others – eventually changing the world to become more as God would have them.
In 1970 I would have given anything to be a few years older so I had more age & experience that would engender a bit more respect. Now I would not mind being a decade younger (with the same storehouse of knowledge and experience) with a renewed opportunity to use it to serve and lead another congregation( and perhaps get a bit more respect by our youth culture). I sometimes jokingly say that one of the greatest things I currently offer is that I have made most of mistakes someplace else and have learned from them. In our youth oriented culture few value wisdom and experience. The church seems fixated on “young” and “energetic” clergy as if it is the person and personality of the priest that matters most. I am still convinced it is the story we have to tell that converts the heart and invites people to join us on the journey to God.
I could retire – but I really do not want to. I enjoy being part of a worshiping community helping craft liturgy and ministry, outreach to the community, and new ways to be good news in the lives of people who need good news. And I feel I best do that in a congregation. So I continue into this new unknown future, where I am no longer seem and either young or energetic – wondering what God has in mind?
In reading this over I realize this is a very self centric piece of writing. But I guess one is allows this every once in a while. Thank you for indulging me. I promise not to repeat this for another decade.