It has been 1 year and 1 month since I moved in to the office at the Church of the Epiphany. The dynamic at this point is a whole lot like the dynamic of being a parent. I know that there was no Hugh Perry, for example, six years ago. And yet, when I remember 2006, somehow, he’s there. I can’t remember a time when there was no Hugh. Same’s true for Calvin and Sara. I know and recall the days when I was not a parent. And yet, when I think of specifics, it’s hard to remember my life without the kids in it. So, I know I’ve only been at the Epiphany for a year. I know that for 13 years previously, I worked and lived in some fashion or other at Providence College and Theological Seminary. And yet, I find it hard to remember that during those days, I was not a priest in Northern Ontario. This feels like it has always been, as it should be. It feels more like home than anywhere since I completed my Ph.D.
Why is this so? A few reasons. Chief among these is the support of my leadership in the Deanery and Diocese. Archdeacon Anne is a good pastor and pastoral mentor for a young priest and I have benefitted from her wise counsel as I’ve navigated the sometimes choppy transitional waters. Bishop Stephen has been a true father-in-God, who at once inspires and terrifies me. Not because he’s scary, mind. (How can any one who wears purple crocs be scary?) But just because he’s really good at his job. You might even say he’s been called to it. Well, I would say that. Because it’s true. And I am blessed by that call as a result.
Another reason ist he support of the people in the Epiphany. It’s been a challenging year in many ways, with significant deaths, other departures, and some financial challenges. Not, so I’ve been told, a good first year for a honeymoon. Yet, through it all, the people here have been very kind and supportive and willing to risk a great deal on a green priest. They have also been very willing to exercise their own gifts and callings as these have emerged. We have seen new people rise into leadership and veterans move into new roles. We have also seen seasoned members continue on in familiar tasks with new energy. All of that has made my job much more fun than it might otherwise have been and I am grateful to God and to the parish for that.
A third reason has been the opportunity to apply theology week in and week out through the discipline of preaching. Sunday morning, well in my case, Saturday night, comes once/week whether I want it to or not. And I have to have a sermon ready. I’ve found, ironically, that Tuesday is my sermon-writing day. Not quite sure why it works, but it does. Anyway, the task of bring forth treasures new and old, even as I remember that it’s God bringing his saving Word throught Spirit, does force me to think through my theology in a more pastoral and concrete way than I have had to in the past. And to do so over a longer period of time. Right now, for example, we have been immersed for six weeks in the unravelling of David’s life as it is recounted to us in 2 Samuel. I don’t think I would otherwise have spent this much time with David had the lectionary (and my commitment to preach through the OT lections for a good long while) not called for it.
I have no idea what the next year will roll out for us here in Sudbury. I fully expect there will be opportunities for growth–personal and congregational, spiritual and possibly numerical. I also expect there will be serious challenges–because there always are. But I’m glad I’m here, tasked to preach to, to pray with and to care for these souls. I’m glad I’m doing so with the support of able and generous people both above and below me on the episcopal ladder (that doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean).