Our Sunday with Bishop Robert Ihloff was an outstanding success by all standards. Fifty some people attended, we had a beautiful Eucharist service and the usual Five Star Coffee Hour. During coffee hour the good Bishop answered questions, gave us an Episcopal Church history lesson and, well, as he said ‘let the cat out of the bag.’
Toward the end of the session the Bishop reaffirmed the church-wide policy that when an interim priest or lay pastoral leader finally departs he or she must depart completely, as in leave the parish. To say there was some shock in the room is an understatement. First most people didn’t consider me the interim. They just took for granted I was the leader of the parish. They didn’t realize my appointment was temporary. Second some had no idea we were working to create a plan for the future that would see a priest come in to take charge though we have been pretty transparent about it. And finally most wondered why would we change a good thing? If it’s not broken why would you try to fix it? Oh, and some were upset they had no idea any of this was going on.
But my position as Lay Pastoral Leader has always been temporary. The Bishop granted licenses to me to lead our parish for one year, renewable for one more year giving me two total years. At our annual meeting this year we explained that situation again and reminded everyone that according to the letter of my agreement I was to depart as your leader on March 31, 2020. We had all agreed to this plan with the Bishop in the very beginning of this experiment. Our goal was to call a priest sometime in 2020.
What I don’t think folks were ready for was that I had to completely leave the parish once a new person is called, as in completely leave. But, surprisingly, I support this policy. As I said Sunday I would not have been comfortable if my predecessor remained a member of Christ Church after I became Lay Pastoral Leader. You just don’t want the last person sitting there while the new person is trying to establish themselves. It’s uncomfortable and serves little purpose save to confuse people as to who is in charge.There is good logic for this policy-which the diocese never waivers from-to be in place.
But we have so much more work to do! Vestry met Wednesday, formulated a simple plan for going forward which we will share with the parish in a few Sundays. Suffice it to say ‘I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.’
As I looked out at the congregation Sunday, all I could think was ‘look what we have created.’ We are a vibrant, stable, growing parish, not something that can be said about a lot of parishes in this diocese and the country, for that matter. We will keep it going, I promise. We just have to work through some of this bureaucracy to do that. Bottom line is the Bishop and diocese want what’s best for Christ Church. It’s just going to take a little time to figure out exactly what that looks like. Hang in there! We’ll have much more information soon.