Dear Sisters and Brothers,
When I first learned that Thomas was on the ballot for the Bishop of Maine, I got an uncomfortable knot in my stomach. What will we do? How will the wardens and vestry cope with all that needs to get done? The staff will feel unsettled, will they leave too? What is Miriam thinking? We will miss Thomas so much, what do I pray for… that Thomas is not elected?
Now that the election is over and Thomas is indeed “Bishop-Elect,” I have had time to reflect and pray over what is in store for the Parish of the Epiphany, and my feelings have changed. I am very happy for and proud of Thomas, he will be a wonderful addition to the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. In turn, Maine will be an energizing place for him. The knot in my stomach is gone, replaced by feelings of excitement and anticipation of walking together with all of you during this time of transition.
Thomas was called to be our 10th rector in 2009. His leaving after almost 10 years is very normal in the life cycle of an Episcopal parish, although very few rectors leave their church to become a bishop. We can all expect some type of major change or transition in our lives every ten years or so, and our church life is no different.
As your wardens, Dave McSweeney and I are aware that Thomas’s leaving will affect us differently. I am keenly aware that some of our elderly envisioned Thomas presiding at their own or their spouse’s funeral, some of our newcomers may be thinking “I just got here, I hardly know Thomas, and I want to know him better,” our children may not know what all the fuss is about, and many of us fear a time of uncertainty. With grace and prayer, Dave and I will do our part to make this emotional time a Spirit-led journey.
When I get overwhelmed with too much to do in too little time I turn to lists. The Diocese of Massachusetts makes the transition process a little easier for us by providing a fairly extensive “checklist” of the tasks that we'll complete during this time. One of the first things to do is to give Thomas a proper goodbye. We are currently planning a party on the evening of Sunday, March 24th to celebrate with both Thomas and his spouse Tom Mousin. On Thomas’s last Sunday, March 31st, we will have a luncheon after the 10:00 am service. We will have two opportunities to be together, so please put those dates on your calendar and let us know if you can help with organizing either of these events.
This past Friday Dave and I met with our Regional Canon, the Reverend Martha Hubbard. The next action on the “checklist” is to discuss how to set ourselves up for a successful search. We are very pleased to report that the Reverend Miriam Gelfer, our Associate Rector, will serve as our “Bridge Priest” until we engage an Interim Priest. We also discussed with Canon Hubbard the process for calling an Interim Priest. An Interim Priest is specially trained to assist a parish to evaluate its mission and ministry and to help the parish prepare for the arrival of a new rector. Dave and I will have an opportunity to interview many Interim Priests, but Miriam’s time as a Bridge Priest could be as long as six months.
During a time of transition, our diocesan canons (the rules and policies, not the staff persons) make it clear that the role of the Interim Priest is to supervise the staff and to perform the offices of a priest (baptisms, weddings, funerals, services, pastoral care). The wardens, with the vestry, are the chief lay officers and legal agents of the parish.
You will have the chance to hear directly from Canon Hubbard on March 17th. She will preach at both services. At 9:00am she will describe in more detail the search process, so please join us for this important informational session.
In 2008, when the Parish of the Epiphany was preparing to call a new rector, we composed this prayer:
“We pray that our new rector will provide long-term stability for us, allowing us to develop, articulate, and work together toward a shared mission for the parish. We hope above all else that every action of our rector will be rooted in Christ and Christian spirituality. We seek a woman or man of God who will embrace us completely and help us love others more fully.”
Looking back at that chapter, I am struck by how blessed we have been. Thomas did bring stability. Our spirituality has grown both individually and as a congregation, and we certainly love others more fully as displayed by becoming a much more welcoming community than we were in 2008.
Please join Dave McSweeney and me as we anticipate with joy, and as we share our joy in the next stage of our communal lives together.