Saturday, February 24, 2018

As the Sixth Year Begins

Morning by Morning new mercies I see
Five years ago, the Lord of all of our stories was turning the page from a chapter and onto a blank sheet where He was about to place His pen to paper to write a new chapter.  It was a cold, damp day, the kind of February day where the dampness penetrates one's body, chilling them to the core.  But the dampness that day seemed to also have a soul-chilling effect in light of how a life's chapter had come to an inexorable, but sudden end.  This end was like watching an automobile accident where one who is powerless to affect the outcome, can only brace for the impact.  The impact did occur, and it struck like a spiritual punch that was directly in the center of my sternum.  But like a rogue wave, it strikes once and quickly becomes a memory.  Then, the Lord of the Story put down His pen to turn the page.

There would be one more unpleasant postscript to the former chapter and once that was confronted, we could move forward.

This weekend marks the beginning of Robin & my sixth year with the Anglican parish of All Saint's Church, Woodbridge Virginia.  Thinking about this, I'm drawn to the memories of pulling into the parking lot of the white church on Gideon Drive.  We chose to attend the second of three Eucharistic celebrations which took place each Sunday. Though we would try out both the 7:15 and 11:15 celebrations, the 8:45 time slot suited us best.  Nothing in our appearance or demeanor gave off any hint that an Anglican clergy couple was visiting the parish.  In a polo and kakis, I looked to be just another graying, goateed denizen of Northern Virginia, indistinguishable from a million other 50-something guys.  Even so, members of the newcomers ministry team met us in the atrium as if we were both distinguished visitors.  Not only were we greeted by members of the ministry team, but by  parishioners as well.  The old saying states that first impressions are lasting ones, ad it was there in the Atrium that plenty of good seeds were sown.

The next thing to make an impression were the dual calibers of both word and worship.  The worship was diverse which included both classical Anglican hymnody, and contemporary songs.  It was apparent that the worship team took their ministry seriously and devoted time for practice and preparation.  The preaching would prove to be equally impressive.  The Rector and his two associates were faithful men of God who were wellsprings of God's word.  This is a trait of those who are also voracious consumers of that word.  Soon, we began to notice that the only ones aggrandized in these messages were God the Father and Christ Jesus the Son.

The next six months served as a sabbatical where Robin and I were allowed to heal.  It was an opportunity to live out the motto of All Saint's, which is captured in the words "Love, Grow, Serve".  Each week, new relationships were forged and developed.  Spiritual bruises began to fade, and the joy of being a child of God was being restored and strengthened.  So after encountering, and embracing the Saints of All Saint's, it would become a moment of great joy to vest and serve them at the end of that sabbatical.

The late great Paul Harvey, broadcaster and storyteller, was known to refer to "The rest of the story" in his memorable radio broadcasts.  Five years later, here is the "rest of the story" to date.

+   +   +   +   +

I've been a Vocational Deacon now for over nine years.  Thirty three months were spent at my first parish, and sixty months here at All Saints.  Taking Christ's parable of the sower into view, it is truly amazing how much growth can occur when a plant is planted in good, healthy soil.  In retrospect, its clear to see where the Lord has taken us from those first days in February 2013.  Time hear has provided great clarity in allowing me to see who I am as a sinner who was saved by grace, a child of the Almighty God, and as a man under Holy Orders.  It has empowered me to escape the bondage of being a "fixer", the one who is compelled to fix everyone's problems.

Some years ago, I was quoted in a Seminarian's paper in describing the work of a Deacon.  I had said that in some ways, "The Deacon is that one at the end of the grand parade with the cart and broom".  Admittedly, this is tongue in cheek, but there was a subtle seriousness to it, which was born out of being a novice Deacon thrust into an environment as spiritually toxic as was Chernobyl.  No, today, I don't see the Deacon as being outside the parade, following and cleaning up the mess, but being fully part of that grand procession.

Today, my Diaconal service extends beyond the relative quiet of the nave and chancel.  Where once, I was confined to the Gospel reading and the setting of the Eucharistic Banquet, the call now takes me out to the highways and hedgerows to serve those on the margins, those who would have been tagged as #TheLeastofThese.

These past five years at All Saint's have been a blessing beyond compare and I'm deeply grateful for Bishop John Guernsey's discernment in placing me with this Parish.  And now, onto the continuing journey.  To the Glory of the Almighty.