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Commencing Radio Silence

At long last I am on retreat! I begin a silent retreat this evening (September 4). To help ME behave, I am turning off all social media access, text messaging, emails and calls. Only Jennifer will be able to reach me. However I do plan to make several blog posts during the week. My blog (I hope) will automatically post links to new blog posts to Facebook and Twitter, although I will not see any comments anyone posts on those sites until I return this weekend.
Meanwhile if you access the blog itself (itinerantpriest.org) and want an email notification whenever a new post is made, you can subscribe to such alerts on the left side of the blog main page.
Let the silence begin! Most of the time will be spent in prayer, study, and writing. God bless and stay safe everyone!

Singing with the Saints

I have been trying to write about my father’s death. He died in July. I have a lot of stuff bubbling around my mind around his death, and have put some of it down. But it is much harder than I thought to keep it coherent and meaningful. I know what the title will be (Seven Last Words), but it is turning out to be pretty challenging to complete. So here is a little piece of it, maybe posting this will get me going on the rest.

Heaven’s getting ready
For an end it all celebration
To begin eternity
With a righteous congregation,
This world’s comin’ to an end
And it won’t be long
The party’s gonna’ start
And go on and on and on
I’ll be singin’ with the saints
At the morning light,
Ringin’ in the day
‘Cause there is no night.
Sayin’ goodbye to the heartache,
Trouble and pain,
I’ll be sittin’ at the throne
With an angel band,
Shoutin’ hallelujah
To the great I Am
If you think it’s a dream,
Well, it ain’t.
I’ll be singin’ with the saints. (written by Bill Gaither)
A few weeks ago my wife and I attended a Gaither Vocal Band concert in Pensacola with friends from Ft. Walton who had given us tickets for Christmas. I am not sure they knew of our history with the GVB and what it meant to both my wife and I to be invited.
During the concert I felt the loss of my father as strong as at any other time since July. My parents are HUGE Gaither fans. For years they ordered every Homecoming Friends CD and DVD and when they were able, they attended quite a few concerts. Jennifer and I were with them for several.
Back in those days the concerts were much larger. Bill Gaither did an amazing thing with these CDs, DVDs and concerts – he truly honored the legends of gospel music, gave them a chance to perform for a much larger audience, and showcased these giants of that genre. A Gaither concert back then would have quite a few acts in addition to the always amazing Vocal Band. They were funny and inspiring and watching my parents deep joy in attending these concerts, singing along, clapping, smiling, remembering, are some of my best memories of them. My mother’s email even includes the phrase “GaitherGal”! They were groupies to the core. We joined them for concerts in Mobile and Jackson, and Biloxi and Atlanta (and for the Atlanta concert my brother Don arranged for a limo to take them to the concert from his house – they had a BLAST).
The GVB has changed a bit, although Bill Gaither, even at 80, is still quite the entertainer. The harmony is sharp, the individual voices tremendous, the banter hilarious, and the spirit is always present as God is praised in song.
I can’t help but believe, with all my heart, my father is even now “Singing with the Saints in the morning light….saying goodbye to heartache, trouble and pain!”. I like picturing him there with all the old great ones, clapping, singing (and singing well – it is heaven after all!), smiling. He’s right there next to Vestal and Harold Goodman and George Younce and Jessy Dixon and Jake Hess…., I can hear:
The tambourine’s ringin’
And David starts to feel the rhythm.
Paul and Silas are hummin’ a tune
They wrote in prison.
When Gabriel hears the music
And he picks up his horn
It’s just another glory, hallelujah morn.
I’ll be singin’ with the saints
At the morning light,
Ringin’ in the day
‘Cause there is no night.
Sayin’ goodbye to the heartache,
Trouble and pain,
I’ll be sittin’ at the throne
With an angel band,
Shoutin’ hallelujah
To the great I Am
If you think it’s a dream,
Well, it ain’t.
I’ll be singin’ with the saints.
Sing on Dad. Shout that hallelujah. I wept at that concert, missing you but also remembering the joy this music brought to you. And so glad I got to share those moments with you and Mom. The party will go on and on and on….

An Elevator Prayer request

As I made my way onto the verrrrrry slow elevator at a hospital recently, having just spent some time with a parishioner who was quite ill, my mind was wandering all over the landscape. It was late on a long day, and I was internally debating whether to go back to the office and the pile of work on my desk, or go home (I went home!). I was tired. I wasn’t, however, finished. For which I am glad.
Just before the elevator doors closed, a hand reached out and blocked the door. There was an African American family trying to get on. I punched the “hold door” button as they piled in, three adults, four children. They were headed out as well. They were laughing and joking about something that had just happened in their loved one’s room, when one of them noticed….”hey y’all, clean it up – there’s a man of the cloth in here”.
I get that a lot.
Of course they all immediately stared at my priest collar, some dropped their heads (giggling I might add), a couple nodded at me. I wished them a good evening. One of the men told me his father was a pastor and he had such a hard time putting his priest collar on. So when I quickly removed the tab collar I was wearing, he said “Man, I have to tell my Daddy about that one! He spends half his life getting a collar on”. As the elevator opened on the bottom floor, one of the other men grabbed my arm and asked me to pray.
I get that a lot too.
I said sure, what would you like me to pray for? By now the others in his party had gathered back around the two of us, standing in the elevator lobby. He looked at me with tears in his eyes. I made the assumption the person they were visiting must be very ill and my heart went out to him.
I was wrong.
I get that a lot.
He said, “man I am so worried about our country, about people who look like me. It seems every crazy white person in America is coming out of the woodwork now and feeling they have won the lottery. I worry about me, but most of all I worry about these kids and the America they will now grow up in. It’s always been harder for us, more dangerous for us. We’ve had to learn to cope. It just seems that the hate is rising again and I am actually scared to death.”
So I thought for a moment, and then asked for his name so I could pray for him. He gave me his name, then he said something that floored me. “Pastor, I appreciate you praying for me. But that’s not what I want you to do. I want you to pray for the government. For everyone in the government. That they will really do things for all people, to remember all were created equal. That’s all I want. To be treated fair. To be seen as equal. To have the same opportunities. I work hard. I went to school. I am raising my kids right. We want the same things for our families that white folks do. We are Americans, too! Pray for Trump and everyone he is appointing and everyone in government. Cause we are scared out here. America Great again? I don’t even know what that means but I am afraid of what it could mean. Pray for them. They need it. We need them to need it. Would you pray for them?”
I don’t get that a lot.
So we prayed. I offered some words and then he offered some words and we hugged in that elevator lobby. His kids were anxious to get moving, laughing about something, unaware of the enormous concern this man had just shared with me – a complete stranger, a “man of the cloth”, a white man who can’t even imagine what it is like to walk in his shoes every day.
His words have stayed with me. “Just treat us as equals” and “we want the same things for our families”. And most of all, “I am scared to death”. For his children. His loves.
So we must pray. And we also must pay attention and hold people accountable. A great America starts right there – with the bedrock premise that all are created equal, there is just one race, the human race, and we are all, truly, sisters and brothers. Our history shows we haven’t always behaved or governed like we believe such to be true. In fact, we rarely have. So, to quote our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, let us pray:
“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought here out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 820).
Justice. Peace. Wisdom. Thankfulness. I can pray for that. And I will. Join me.

Where ya been?

As I head into my 5th week as Rector at St. Simon’s on the Sound, I am finally coming up for air a bit. At least I can now spend a few minutes on mIMG_5514y blog.

<== The view from my parking space!

Starting at a new church is always an adventure. It’s like a roller coaster – lots of thrills, exhilarating and terrifying, with  the unknown lurking on the other side of each hill,  yet there is rarely anything to fear – just more fun, more life, more joy.

This is my 4th time to start at a new church in 4 years. I am conscious of how different it is coming in as Rector vs. Interim Rector, while at the same time using some of the experience I have had as an Interim to “hit the ground running”. At the same time I try my best to be cognizant there IS time, time to lay a foundation, time to grow into the rhythms of a new place.

But in some ways, we need a sense of urgency, don’t we? The church in America is in decline, we all can read the statistics and, if we so desire, wring our hands and wonder what happened to the good ole days, when Christendom ruled the land and everyone was in a church on Sunday mornings (and where I am from, Wednesday nights). The challenge we face as leaders is deciding – will we program our way out of this? Will we preach our way out of this? Or will we pray our way out of this? And if prayer is the answer, and I think it is, will we be open to how God responds to those prayers? What can we let go of? What do we need to cling to? How do we reach a new generation who, more and more often, do not have the church connection many of us did from growing up in the church? And in doing so, how do we honor those who have kept the faith and kept the church alive and vibrant, honoring our traditions while being open to the future?

It will take time. And we are running out of time. No clergy person can do this work alone. Thanks be to God, I find myself in the midst of a community of people who love God, love their church, and really want to see St. Simon’s be all God has called us to be.

The roller coaster, for the most part, will be a blast! I am blessed to be along for the ride. Come along!

(For those of you who know me, you know that my father, Dr. Harold “Jug” Knight, died on July 13th – about 10 days before I was due to start at St. Simon’s. I am in the midst of writing about my dad and our loss of him, but it’s not ready for public viewing just yet. Stay tuned. The writing itself has helped me deal with the loss, the grief, and the relief of my father’s death. And it also has reminded me how blessed I am to be part of my family. I am surrounded by heroes and also a “great cloud of witnesses”. More to come.)

I saw Dolphins today…

This morning I saw Dolphins…..

This makes perfect sense, because today is my wife’s birthday. It’s a speed limit birthday, one you find on two lane highways, not interstates. But one of those speed limit years that we tend to mark as a “big one”.
Jennifer has a thing about birthdays. While I am happy just pretty much ignoring them for myself, she really does like to celebrate her special day. Unfortunately this year will be a bit mild. We have Brayden, our six year old buddy with us this week. Last night he was talking about how he can’t wait for his birthday (in August), and Jennifer said “but tomorrow is my birthday and that’s way more important”, to which Brayden replied, “oh yeah well you will only have two people at your party, me and David!”
It was funnier than it sounds.
We are in transition mode big time. We are in very temporary quarters where we have moved some clothes and a few other things, waiting on the weekend when we hope we can move our furniture from storage in Jackson to our new condo in Ft. Walton Beach. Once again we have been blessed by friends who offered us a place to stay. For months now we have stayed at my in-laws condo in Perdido, an amazing gift by them when we had no where else to go. Then all the uncertainty of how long I would stay at Christ Church, waiting to see if search processes worked out, kept us from being able to make a move to a longer term place due to the impossibility of finding a place we could rent on a short term basis. Very soon, our living in borrowed space will end and we can setup home again.
All together it makes for a challenging birthday celebration. And that’s too bad, because Jennifer really does deserve a big day.
I hope you know my wife. She is the most unique person I have ever encountered on this earth. She has taught me so much about love, about life, about parenting, about having the courage to answer God’s call when it really makes no sense to anyone else. When she decided to go to nursing school when our girls were quite young, to follow her dream, to agree with God this was her calling, where her gifts could really be used to the glory of God and to help others, it was from her decision to do so that I learned I could do the same, years later. She has been the heart and soul of every community we have been a part of. She has thrown her shoulders back and faced the challenging life of a priest’s wife, which can be really hard at times, and remained true to herself.
Jennifer has an amazing and inspirational faith. Being a priest’s spouse is challenging, much more so as we have done interim work these last four years. She loves people, she loves them deeply and without reservation, so the constant transitioning of interim work has been especially difficult for her. I am really excited about our new opportunity, to be in and live in and grow with a community of faith for an extended period of time and I am especially excited for her sake.
I saw Dolphins this morning as I watched the sun rise on the balcony of our friend’s condo. Jennifer loves Dolphins, almost as much as she loves dragonflies. Last summer we traveled to Key Largo and she got to swim with the Dolphins there. It was amazing! I have never seen a grown person so thrilled, laugh so loud, enjoy something so beautifully! You should have seen her! In those moments of joy, her face glowing, her laugh ringing out, I was so deeply reminded of my love for her, but more than that, of my appreciation for her. She is a tireless worker who gives so much of herself to others, so to see her have just a little bit of time where she can simply celebrate life doing something she had always wanted to do was truly a highlight of my life.
So here’s to you on your speed limit birthday, Jennifer! You will be flooded with Facebook messages today, with calls and emails and the like. You are loved and your are beloved. Brayden is wrong. There are way more than two people at your party! For there are literally thousands of people whose lives you have touched, made better, ministered to, took care of, and enjoyed life with.
And they are here, in spirit, in prayer, and in celebrating you. The Dolphins told me so!
Happy Birthday Jen – all my love, all my life.