Yesterday, the news went out to Christ Church Greenwich that I have accepted a call to serve as Canon for Adult Christian Formation at Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina. My last Sunday in Greenwich will be June 15, and I will take up my new duties in Columbia the following week.
This is profoundly bittersweet news. Debby and I are so excited by this new opportunity, but are so sorry to leave the place that has become our home. We have been blessed beyond telling by our three years in Greenwich. We leave behind many treasured friends, and carry with us many cherished memories. Our daughter took her first steps here. I was ordained a priest here at Christ Church (on Debby’s birthday, no less!). Our son was born in Greenwich Hospital this winter, and was baptized at Christ Church just a few weeks ago. And so, at our leave taking, we are overwhelmed by an enormous sense of gratitude to this parish and this community for all that you have been and will be to us.
My priesthood will forever bear the imprint of our time here. Indeed, it was the opportunity to explore and develop my passion for teaching and Christian formation at Christ Church that has prepared me for the work I am now called to do at Trinity. No one element of my life as a priest thus far has been so thrilling, challenging, and satisfying as the opportunity to study God’s Word with so many wonderful companions. Over the last two years, it has been my great privilege to study the entire New Testament (with the exception of the Epistle to the Hebrews, though that omission was not by design!) with over sixty-five parishioners and friends of Christ Church. I am grateful to those who made it to only one session, and I am grateful to those who have come week in and week out, growing in the knowledge and the love of Holy Scripture and one another through our weekly gatherings. You have continually renewed and strengthened my love for the Bible, and for the Incarnate Word, Jesus our Lord, who manifests himself in and through the written Word. In your company, God has been gracious to show me, again and again, that his Word is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
This gift–the gift of God’s powerful Word shared in loving community–energizes and excites me for what will come next. I am convinced that the work of Christian formation is the critical task facing the Church today. We can no longer rely on a kind of residual cultural Christianity to form our people through spiritual osmosis. (Whether this approach ever really worked is open to debate. The fact that it is no longer viable is beyond dispute.) Rather, in this age we must be deliberate and bold: continually holding before the eyes of the Church the earth-shaking announcement of Christ’s Cross, engaging with the Holy Scriptures, living and breathing the worship of God, and allowing ourselves to be impelled outward, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, to serve God’s beautiful, broken world. We must find new ways to engage the gifts of all the baptized, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, and for building up the whole Body of Christ.”
But most importantly, we must understand that our strength alone shall never accomplish these tasks. Christian formation is not the work of a priest, a parish, or even the whole Church universal. It is the work of the Holy Spirit through priests, parishes, all God’s people, and Christ’s Holy Church throughout the world. So it is that as I look to undertake the work of Christian formation in a new way, my constant prayer for myself and my colleagues is for the grace of God’s mighty Spirit, that we might be drawn into the work that the Lord is accomplishing already, and that we might be faithful stewards of the gifts he so abundantly pours out upon us.
Grateful for those gifts made manifest in our lives over the last three years and eager for the good work that lies ahead, our prayer for our friends in Greenwich and our new friends in Columbia is Paul’s prayer for his beloved Philippians: “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
“He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” AMEN.