Timing is everything. Good timing, when the stars align and all is right in the world, can create what may feel like spontaneous magical synchronicity,
A year ago John Wiles invited me to be the spiritual director and walking guide for Vox Peregrini. John is the choral professor at the University of Northern Iowa. He has recruited thirteen professional singers to walk the Wicklow Way and perform mideval music as they make their 100 mile trek. The dates were set, Cathy and I began making plans to leave for Ireland June 15.
Six months ago, Chad Sundin and Bishop Kirk Smith began making plans for Chad's ordination into the Holy Order of priesthood. Ordination dates are chosen for several reasons including meeting Episcopal canonical law, the bishop's schedule, Chad graduation from seminary. Chad asked me to be the preacher for his ordination, so my plans were graciously considered. Given all the various nuances and requirements, June 13 was chosen as the blessed day. By tradition, then, on Sunday June 14, Chad would celebrate his first Eucharist. It is also custom not to ask the newly ordained to preach because all the preparation and stress of getting ready for the ordination. So, I would preach the day before I would leave for four weeks of vacation. All seemed to be in place for the exciting events.
Three months ago the bishop announced the opening of a newly created position. The position was to be two part time jobs, Canon Theologian for the diocese and assistant to the rector at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Litchfield Park, Arizona. The Canon would be responsible spiritual formation opportunities across the diocese. The assistant position at St. Peter's would in essence do the same kind of work in the parish. Both jobs seemed very intriguing to me. I wasn't looking to leave my job at the time. I loved the people and the work fit my vocation. But I had been there 10 years and the new job offered two irristible attractions, time to write and my commute would be reduced from from 90 minutes a day to ten minutes and I would office out of our home. After several conversations I was offered the position.
Then came two decisions. First, it was decided my final day at St. Augustine's would be June 14. The second decision was that Chad was selected as my successor. He would be ordained June 13. The torch would be passed June 14. The following day I would leave for a month in Ireland.
I announced to the congregation and the Episcopal Campus Ministry community I would be leaving. For six weeks I carried their grief and mine. Yes, while I was excited about the new job, I was also sad to be leaving a people I have loved deeply for 10 years. The physical training of preparing for another 100 mile Irish pilgrimage, supporting a grieving congregation, and making all the necessary steps for a heathy leaving has been exhausting.
More than anything, I wanted to leave well. I didn't want 10 years of good work to be ruined by six weeks of mismanagement on my behalf. When I came to St. Augustine's I promised myself to leave the place better than I found it and I didn't want to make a tragic misstep in the final few weeks.
I can't say for sure, you'd have to ask the people, but it felt like the final days were a celebration of great time together and an acknowledge through the ordination of one of our own, that indeed all is well and all will be well,
At the reception after Chad's ordination I took a picture of three priests the bishop has ordained in the past two years who have come out of our congregation. Sunday morning Chad was assisted by two deacons who have been ordained out of our congregation in the last five years. Chad's wife, Jana, was hired last year as the Director of Children's Ministry for the Diocese. Two young adults were given Neely grants. The bishop's committee is a diverse group of excellent leaders. The parish is in good hands. Leadership development has become a way of life in this community.
All I can truly say is that St. A's are a people who have lived out their vision of Prayer, Discernment, and Hospitality. Now is their time to see a new vision given to them by their new vicar and prior the Br Rev Chad. All is well and all will be well. God loves you. Love God with all your heart. Love your neighbors as your selves. And all will truly be well.
From Belfast, Ireland, the land of the troubles, know that peace and love of neighbor is possible because we are all one in the eye of the Holy Living God.