Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My Silver Jubilee

It was 25 years ago today (in chronos), on the Saturday in the Week of Lent IV (in kairos), that the Rt. Rev. Robert Poland Atkinson laid hands on me in Trinity Church, Parkersburg, WV and asked the Holy Spirit to "make me a priest" in the Church. My seminary field-work supervisor, The Rev. Jim Bradley (of St.Paul's Church in New Haven and now Rector of St. John's Waterbury, CT) was the preacher and used the the words of an architect and reworked them to apply to priesthood by calling me to "provide a space for God's People to become who God created them to be". It was a powerful sermon, as Jim was and is one of the best preachers I have ever heard.

I was somewhat dismayed that I didn't really feel different than I did the day before, I wondered if it really took. One of my presenters, The Rev. Sandye Wilson (now a priest in Newark) knelt and asked me for a blessing right after the liturgy---that felt silly and awkward to me, wet behind the ears, ink not yet dry on my ordination certificate--but I blessed her as best I felt I could! I remember the people coming forward the next morning to receive Holy Communion after my first celebration of the Holy Eucharist at 8 o'clock Eucharist at Trinity Church in Parkersburg, WV (where I was Curate and Ken Price was the Rector) and thinking "These poor people, they actually believe this is real!". But looking into their faces as they held out their hands I realized that it was real.

Much like Baptism and Confirmation the sacrament sets us on a journey of revelation of who we really are. The Church and the Holy Spirit formed me into this vocation over the years. Learning to pray through the Prayer Book came much later in my ministry where I could actually pray rather than worry about the mechanics of presiding and preaching. Its an acquired charism we receive through the prayers, ministries and associations with The People of God. Seminary never prepares one fully for what is to come--it just provides the first toolbox and some crude tools with which to fashion ministry---the "good" tools come much later! It hasn't been an easy road for me. To integrate who God created me to be AND my vocation has had its rough places, difficult times and sorrow. Unlike others, my personal life and vocation have been in conflict in public ways that haven't always been pleasant. I need to acknowledge my children who have had to put up with not just one parent who is a priest but TWO! A "blessing" I would not wish on any child!

Reflecting on the past 25 years I have seen lots of change in the Church (mostly positive). I am proud of the Episcopal Church and its witness to a non-confessional, praying Christianity and its ability to be resilient in the face of the chances and changes of life...its ability to contain within it a catholicism that allows for divergent understandings of our pilgrimage as a Community of the Baptized. I pray that my contributions in ministry have helped bring forth the harvest that is promised by God to all who put themselves in his/her hands. The prayers of the Episcopal Church has arms, legs, heart and mind attached.

One of the poems someone gave me the day of my ordination has kept me honest in this vocational path. Its a prayer by poet John Ciardi (1918-1986). I first kept it in my Prayer Book, scotch taped in as a reminder of the humility and uncertainty that is our call to holiness. I share it with you:

Palaver's No pray-er
PALAVER'S no pray-er.
There's a nice-ninny priest
at tea in everyone,
all cozy and chatty as auntie,
but a saint comes
and throws rocks through the window.

Ironic perhaps. True, absolutely! Thank you for the privilege of this amazing, terrifying and awesome vocation. I couldn't have arrived here without God's grace and your prayers and ministry!


At 4:22 PM, Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Congratulations upon your jubilee celebration, Scott. I am glad that the Spirit made you a priest, and honored to know you.

Blessings always --

P.S. Word verification is "regeyed." How gay is that??


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