Since being ordained I have served 5 churches. Each has been unique, each community quite different. The challenges facing each church were also very different. The 3 interim gigs I have had (including the current one) have each needed quite different things from me as Interim Rector.
Yet all these churches have so much in common. Each has truly amazing, Godly, kind, supportive, prayerful, delightful, unique and loving people. People of all ages, socio-economic class, race, gender. People who, in a culture becoming increasingly more secular, make church a priority, people who have welcomed Jennifer and I (and our children back when they were part of the package) with open arms. Disciples of Jesus with whom I have been deeply honored to walk with through all that life throws at us.
Over the last few months Jennifer and I have had the opportunity to return to my previous three churches. In late December I was back in St. Patrick’s in Long Beach, MS in the church we together rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. It was my first time back in St. Patrick’s since my leave taking in April of 2012. The occasion was bittersweet – the funeral of Deacon Lynne Hough (I wrote about Lynne HERE). But it was wonderful to see so many old friends and to be a part of the congregation which gathered to remember Lynne and celebrate her life and ministry. Being back on that campus was really special. I was flooded with so many memories, particularly watching every bit of that building going up, and the incredible feeling it was on Pentecost of 2009 when we worshipped together there for the first time. In many ways, along with Deacon Lynne, these fine people helped mold and shape me as a Priest and as a Rector and I am grateful and so blessed to have spent 8 years with them.
On January 10th we were back in St. James, Jackson, MS where I was Interim from May 2012 to June of 2013. The occasion was a highlight of my life – the baptism of Juby Taylor, our first grandchild. Again the wonderful feeling of being back amongst such sweet and dear people was only topped by the actual baptism itself. I am grateful to their Rector, The Rev. Jamie McElroy, for his gracious invitation to allow me to offer the sacrament of Holy Baptism to my grandson.
Although I never served St. Paul’s in Meridian, I was born in Meridian and my parents are from there. In March I was again honored with an equal life highlight when I baptized our granddaughter, Eliza Dreyfus, in the same baptismal font her father, John, was baptized in (and wearing his gown too!). Their Interim Rector, The Reverend Arnold Bush, was the Rector of St. Peter’s by the Lake when we joined there (this is my home parish who sent me to seminary). Arnold also was so gracious and helpful in allowing me to baptize Eliza there during Lent!
Then a couple of weeks ago Jennifer and I were at St. Paul’s in Delray Beach, where I was Interim Rector from September 2013 to November of 2015. We were invited down by their new Rector, The Rev. Paul Kane, to participate in a retirement celebration for three fabulous staff members of St. Paul’s. Jennifer and I were surprise guests, as was Bishop Chip Stokes and his wife Susan. Chip was Rector at St. Paul’s for about 15 years before being elected Bishop of New Jersey. Also their Associate Rector, the Rev. Kathleen Gannon, flew in from Ireland where she was on sabbatical, just to be at the event. It was truly electric when we walked in – the surprise element was a big part of that. I loved seeing everyone again, and revisiting Delray Beach, an incredible place to live, was a blast.
They say “home is where the heart is”, and part of our hearts remain in each of these places (I was back in Greenville two years ago where I got to do the wedding of one of my daughter’s best friends when we lived there – it was SO FUN) we have served. I never take for granted the blessings of this crazy ordained ministry life. Most of those blessings have smiling faces attached to them. I thank God for these recent opportunities to “go home” and hangout with all these saints once again.