Sunday, June 30, 2019

2019.06.30 Leaving and Grieving With Grit and Grace

It is hard to say goodbye and harder to make that goodbye authentic, that is, with feeling but not sloppy. There’s only one way to do it—just do it. The apostle Paul called it speaking the truth in love. I call it leaving and grieving with grit and grace.

We have been priest associates at a parish in Charlestown Massachusetts for seven years. Today was our last Sunday. We’ll be moving on, not because of anything negative, but because it is time. A bit of the process:

Our notice in the parish newsletter, June 10—Holy Spirit season takes hold.
 
Dear Parishioners of St. John’s,

In conversation with one another and in communication with the parish wardens and Canon Carol Gallagher, the regional canon for our area of the diocese who has oversight over transition processes, we have decided that it is time for us to move on from St. John’s parish. Our last Sunday in the parish will be June 30th.

The Priest Associate arrangement was made under the appointment of the former rector, and we have served in that capacity over seven years with gratitude. Your gracious hospitality gave us an altar and a pulpit  whereby we could function as priests during our early retirement years. Thank you.

You are entering a transition time when you will be discerning your future and new leadership. It’s the right time for us to move on. We are making plans for our next retirement phase which will have us moving out of Massachusetts.

With deep appreciation and gratitude for this community, we bid you all farewell and bless you with grit and grace as you go forward. Thank you.

Affectionately,

The Rev’ds Lyn G. Brakeman and Richard J Simeone, aka Lyn and Dick

A Gracious Response

This Sunday June 30, we say farewell to Rev. Lyn Brakeman and the Rev. Dick Simeone, who have been an integral part of St. John’s for many years.
       
Together with us:
    They have preached, celebrated baptisms, officiated and been a spiritual balm at funerals, heard and healed us, and called us time and time again to the Eucharistic table.
    They’ve broken bread with us, laughed, cried, fussed, found things that were lost, and sat with us when we were feeling lost.
    They’ve visited those of us who were sick, dying, grieving, newly parenting, struggling, or confined.
    They’ve inspired and provoked us to look within ourselves and without ourselves to the needs of the whole world.

Lyn and Dick—we will miss you. We wish you oh so well in the next stage of your lives. We send our love, our prayers and our knowledge that we are all and always a part of the community of Christ.
         Catherine and Sarah, Parish Wardens.

What I love most about this response is that it acknowledges that parish ministry happens together. 

Final Blessings  On invitation from the Interim priest, we offered the closing blessings—dual but not dueling. As we said our favorites heads nodded and lips moved in recognition. We felt warmed.
  
Lyn: Time is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts and minds or those who travel the way with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind.
Dick: And, as you go forth to life and ministry, the blessing of the eternal and ever-living God, Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit, sustain, strengthen, challenge, and renew you this day and forevermore. Amen.

Party Time This parish specializes in food glorious food. There was enough to feed those 5000 hungry stragglers on the hillsides as Jesus did. (I’ve often thought it would be a great idea for St. John’s to start a small cafĂ©/tearoom ministry. Then I remembered we don’t have a dishwasher.)

Many people shed tears of love, offered goodbyes and remembrances of beauty and humor, even a little anger. One man remembered that when his mother was sick and lonely and uncertain about God’s judgment, he’d asked if I’d give her a call. I gave her many calls. She called  me “her spiritual advisor,” and, after she’d read my memoir, declared: “Well! I guess if this woman did all this acting up and is a priest, I must be fine with God.”

Parting Words  We each offered parting thoughts—humorous, wise, and into the future. I am only qualified to share my own.

Well, we are soaring up, up, and away with Elijah in the whirlwind, but according to a typo in today’s bulletin we’ll be back again next week.
   
My two favorite spiritual gifts are grit and grace. [Grit and grace! they repeated knowingly.] A lot’s been said about grace, God’s, yours, ours, so I’m going to zero in on grit. I know some of you worry about the future of this parish, but let me assure you, you have what it takes in your DNA to thrive. I call this grit your blunt force determination and resilience. Two iconic examples:
    -Years ago a fire threatened to burn down the sanctuary. The rector, the legendary Mr. Cutler, placed his body between the stained glass apse window of Christ presiding at the Eucharist and a fireman wielding a large axe, ready to demolish the window. The window survived and the sanctuary didn’t burn down. Grit and grace.
     -Once a diocesan bishop was thinking of closing this parish. A small group of stalwart gritty parishioners, some of them here today, raised a great fuss, organized, and, as legend would have it, actually barred the bishop from entering the sanctuary.  I love the legend, but, in this case, the real story is even better: the gritty small group organized, went out into Charlestown, and rallied as many people as they could ambush to come to church that Sunday. The poor bishop arrived to a full house. He didn’t dare close the place after such a show of Christian zeal! Grit and grace.

The challenge this gritty and graced parish faces today, I think, is twofold: trust mightily in your DNA and simultaneously, slow down, listen to your self, to God, to one another, even a bishop. Christ isn’t presiding over a horse race, you know.

Carry on with grit and grace, beloved. You got this one.