22 January 2007

Forward*

y now most of you will have heard of my resignation as rector of the Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea, effective sometime this July. Ashley and I came as newlyweds to middle Tennessee in 2003 so that Ashley could begin the residency program in internal medicine and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a residency that ends in June. Shortly after our move to Nashville I was called to St. Joseph of Arimathea, agreeing with the vestry that as the end of Ashley’s residency approached, we would enter a period of discernment about my continued ministry here. After much prayer, thought, and seeking of counsel, we have decided to return to South Carolina. The time for goodbyes has not yet come, but I do want to say that Ashley and I are continually grateful for the friendship, support, and partnership in ministry we have found in this parish family.
As I say, the time for goodbyes is not yet, and there is a great deal of work to be done; there remains for us in Hendersonville an “open door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Col. 4.3.) in word and deed. So we will keep moving, addressing the challenges and opportunities before us, and full steam ahead – and that is simply to say that we will lean our full weight on Jesus, knowing that he is faithful, and is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3.20).
The first task in hand is to deal openly and honestly with the crisis in the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. We have reached a point at which many of our parishioners feel they can no longer continue in the Episcopal Church, even in an orthodox parish in what has been a safe diocese, as the Episcopal Church continues to be formed by the spirit of the age, embracing new teachings and a form of life that carries it away from the Anglican Communion and far out of the mainstream of catholic Christianity. It now seems likely that following this month’s Primates Meeting in Tanzania there will be a Communion-provided alternative for traditional Anglicans in the Episcopal Church, which means we face a very live question, and difficult one – as the Episcopal Church moves away from the Anglican Communion and what we believe is the “faith once delivered” (Jude 3), will we go with it? My hope is that we will deal with the question in an open and honest manner, without prejudging the outcome. To help us with this task, on Sunday, February 4th, we will begin a “40 Days of Discernment” process of study, prayer, and discussion. This will involve Sunday morning sermons, my Sunday School class, individual guided study and prayer, corporate prayer each Wednesday evening, and other special fora with guests from outside the parish. I have written to Bishop Bauerschmidt and asked him to be fully a participant in this process.
In 2003, following the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, I told you that I could not follow the Episcopal Church into schism, and that I have no interest in being part of a regional protestant sect – be it “conservative” or “liberal.” Although I am quite clear in my own mind that the Episcopal Church has decisively chosen to “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion and catholic Christianity, my own hope is that whatever decisions our individual members or the parish as a whole might come to, through this process those decisions will be prayerfully made and theologically informed, rather than in reaction and in anger. To that end, I and the vestry are asking all of you to engage as fully as possible in this discernment process; the insights, opinions, and prayers of all are needed if we are as a body to reach an authentic consensus (whatever that might be), or at least to understand and care for one another as we differ. The “40 Days” guidebook is available online (http://www.40daysofdiscernment.org/); if you are able easily and conveniently to access the internet from your home or office, you may keep up with the daily prayer and study that way (and at the same time save the office considerable time and effort); the same resources will be available in “hard copies” from the parish. Again, this is an important decision, a decision that we must make together, and so it is necessary that together we “apply our hearts to wisdom” and seek the Lord’s will in this matter. Please pray and commit yourself to this process of discernment.
I also want you to know that the vestry has begun forming a committee so that the search for a new rector can begin as soon as possible; the composition of that committee will be announced as soon as it is complete, but it is not too soon to begin praying for the committee and for the one whom God is already preparing to be your next priest and pastor. Ashley and I also ask for your prayers as we begin preparing for our own transition.
That’s a lot of change, and a lot over which we may be tempted to worry. All the more reason, then, to give ourselves over more and more to the Father “in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1.17), and to the Son who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13.8), and to the Holy Ghost in whom there is peace and joy, even (and especially) as we seek to be faithful to the Lord’s calling (Rom. 14.8).
God bless you,
Patrick+

*from the February issue of our parish newsletter.



 

3 Comments:

Blogger Alan said...

May God bless you, your family, and your parish family in the decisions and trials which are ahead.

Alan

22 January, 2007 12:01  
Anonymous Scott K said...

Patrick, you've said it's too soon for goodbyes, but I don't want to forget to tell you that it is an honor, a priviledge and a blessing to have known and served with you in this diocese.

22 January, 2007 16:11  
Blogger PSA+ said...

Thanks, friends - and likewise.
P.+

23 January, 2007 10:40  

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