Dear friends at Epiphany,
We have just said a heartfelt goodbye to Miriam Gelfer, our beloved priest and friend, as she begins her retirement. It has been hard to say goodbye to Miriam, made all the more difficult because the pandemic prevented us from being together in person for her farewell.
We are in the midst of grief right now. One of the things we know about grief is that present grief often brings to mind grief we have borne in the past. I imagine that saying farewell to Miriam also brings to remembrance the bittersweet farewell you offered to Thomas last spring. Both Thomas and Miriam belonged to you – they were yours, in a deep and lasting way. After many years of ministry with you, they knew your stories and were deeply woven into the fabric of Epiphany. It is hard to let them go.
And yet, mingled with our grief is gratitude. One of the graces of the interim time is that it opens a space for reflection on the ministry of the priest who has departed. There is time to acknowledge with gratitude – publicly, yet often silently, in one’s heart – the blessings of his or her ministry. There is time in which to begin to harvest the abundant fruit of Miriam’s and Thomas’s ministry among you. In its own way, this is a season of thanksgiving as well as loss.
There is something else at work here, too. The interim time also offers space to grow toward welcoming a new rector. Right now, your rector search committee is imagining a future with the candidates with whom they are in discernment. And I expect that each of you, in your own way, is imagining what the future holds. You are growing toward a new beginning, even as you grieve the departure of such treasured companions as Miriam and Thomas.
As you dwell in this time of grief, gratitude, and growth, Rilke’s poem Autumn comes to mind. The poem acknowledges the inevitable losses we bear – the “falling” that marks our existence – and yet ends with the assurance that
there is One who holds all this falling
With infinite gentleness in his hands.
I pray that in this interim time, you will find rest in the One who is infinitely gentle and always with us.
Yours in Christ,