My dear friends in Christ,
If I remember correctly, I’ve joked with y’all once or twice about the ancient curse that says: “May you live in interesting times.” The joke being, of course, that in your average history class, the “interesting” parts of the textbook are the chapters covering dire, cataclysmic events—wars, plagues, famines, the collapse of empires, et al. Interesting to read about … but not so much from the perspective of anyone who has to live through such times.
That latter perspective is better expressed by the protagonist, Frodo, in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, when it sinks in that he has been fated to play a critical role in what might actually be the end of the world: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish that none of this had happened.”
The wizard Gandalf—the embodiment of wisdom in the tale—responds to Frodo’s lament with words that might just resonate with us today: “So do I. And so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
His answer doesn’t solve the problem, of course. It doesn’t resolve much of anything. Yet, it does manage to reframe Frodo’s (and our) perspective, and perhaps to reorient our priorities.
My friends, I love this parish. I love being part of it, and I love that God called me and my family here to be among you. It’s not really possible to express in words the gratitude that I feel that this is the parish I get to serve as your priest. Your faith, as a Christian community, is so deep, and your grace so freely shared, that it is truly a joy to be here.
That said, we have been living in “interesting times” for a long while, now. As many of you know, I arrived at All Saints on the first of December (Advent 1), 2019, and it felt like I was here for about twenty minutes before Covid hit and the whole world came crashing down.
I exaggerate, of course. A preacher’s prerogative … or at least, a preacher’s typical bad habit. Even so, the year and a half that I should have—would have—spent visiting with you, sharing meals, enjoying with you the sights & sounds of Appleton, and just generally building relationships, we instead had to spend scrambling, together, to figure out how even to do church at all in the depths of a global pandemic. Everything had to be re-visioned, re-imagined. The word “daunting” hardly covers it, yes?
But this amazing parish did so much more that merely weather the hardships. This congregation, from what I saw, basically said: “Okay, another crisis. Guess we’d better get on with it.” : ) I cannot tell you how utterly inspiring it has been to watch the way all of you came together in order to make sure that we stayed together as a parish family. To say “thank you” hardly covers it, indeed.
That said, I have to admit that, as inspiring and uplifting as it has been to be with you all through these interesting times, as your brand new rector (can I still say that after almost two years?), I have also found it extremely challenging. And lately I’ve begun to notice some signs of burnout. And a burnt-out priest is neither good nor healthy for any congregation.
So, despite the fact that it is an absolutely terrible time to do so … and despite the fact that I was only just able, last Sunday, to be back with you after having to quarantine for ten days prior … and at the urging of our Wardens and Vestry (and especially my wife, Anne!) … I have realized that I need to go ahead and take the rest of my allotted vacation time for 2021 now.
I will be “gone” for the next two Sundays, as I go on retreat in order to recharge, refresh, and reorient myself in order to be stronger, healthier, and better prepared to serve this wonderful faith community into the new liturgical year. It had been my hope to do that prior to the start of Advent, but those ten days of Covid lockdown threw a spanner into those works, unfortunately. As always, in the event of any serious emergency, I will be reachable, and I will not be too far away to get back if anything major happens. But I’ve hit a point where I just don’t have a whole lot left in the tank, as we say down South.
It is my deep desire—and indeed, at my installation I swore a solemn oath before God and all of you—to serve you as diligently and as faithfully and as fully as I can, offering you everything I’ve got as your priest and rector. To be able to do that, I need to take this time of retreat and restoration. My heartfelt thanks to the Wardens and the Vestry leadership of this parish for your support and encouragement in making sure that I do what I need to in order to be healthy and strong for all of you. And my thanks to all of you, who make All Saints the incredible home that it is for us. I very much look forward to completing the journey of Advent with you in a couple weeks, and moving together into the blessed season of Christmas.
See you soon!
Peace & blessings,
Parish Office Hours (during covid-19)
CONTACT THE PARISH OFFICE
Phone (920) 734-3656 or (920) 249-4147