As I get older I keep thinking there aren’t too many things that are going to surprise me. Many times, I’m wrong. Yesterday (September 24) was one of them. Even my wife Jan and my sister Mary Lou were in on it. As our worship drew to a close and I stood in the back of our rented church, I glanced over to my right and spotted a sheet cake on the table reserved for our fellowship and wondered “what’s that for?” Usually there are many home baked goodies, finger foods, cookies, fruit and other sweets brought to our gathering just like the elements of Communion, an offering of thanksgiving. This was different.
There was a piped phrase on the top of snow white icing which said, “Congratulations on your first year.” I thought that was cute, someone was being congratulated for being a member of our ECoE congregation for a year. Then someone said to me “congratulations, this is for you and Elizabeth.” Then I woke up. The cake and ice cream was for us!
Well, it really was like a birthday party: cake and ice cream. Everyone was standing around having a good time. Jan and Mary Lou were laughing. It had been planned for weeks. I guess I’m not the all seeing all knowing priest I thought I was. We had a great time and I was touched and I know Elizabeth was too.
I have served small churches, medium churches and large churches in the 37 years of my priesthood and I have to admit that small churches are the best. Why? Because it’s like the life boat experience: everyone is in it together. We depend on one another. When someone has trouble, we all know it. We share in both excitement and sorrow. We lift each other up and walk together because we’ve all been there. Often words aren’t even necessary. We care about each other and we can’t afford to ignore anyone.
As a congregation, we have come a long way. We have established an identity in the household of God as a happy crowd, ready to roll up our sleeves, be generous and energetic. Why is that? Because no one is here because they have to be here. All of us have chosen to worship here, live here and support what we do. You know, there’s not another congregation in our whole Diocese who gives 10% to outreach right off the top of the annual budget. We made that a priority. It’s who we are: loving and giving. That’s why I’m proud to be here and I’m very grateful you have called me to this place.
Thank you again on behalf of Elizabeth and me for your support, patience and good humor. Who knows what the next year will bring, but I’m excited about it and I can see (and taste) that you all are too. God bless you.