Or Pastor Bill
(But not Raymond J. Johnson, Jr.)
Father Tim doesn't exist. Nor Cynthia. Nor Barnabas. Nor Lord's Chapel. Nor Mitford. Nor the Episcopal Church in which Fr. Tim served.
Our dog Murphy exists, but unlike Barnabas he doesn't respond to Scripture recitation. Nor do humans all that much. Including me. Would that it were that easy to bring dogs or ourselves under control.
Covenant Reformed Episcopal Church exists. I first attended the parish just after we moved to Roanoke in the summer of 2013. I did not begin to attend regularly until January of 2014 just after my reception as a Presbyter into the Reformed Episcopal Church. (My pilgrimage to Anglicanism.) When I was received as a Presbyter and had my orders regularized, I thought that I had found a "parking place" for my orders for the rest of my life, not that I would have opportunity to exercise ministry, surely not to be Rector of a parish. The parish was appreciating the labors of its Vicar while continuing to look for a Rector and had no thought whatsoever of my exercising ministry.
However, the Vicar, retired Presbyter Richard Workowski, invited me to assist him with the liturgy and from time to time to preach. Neither he nor I had any idea how much patience would be required of him to mentor me in saying the services and in Anglican ways. But he is a man of patience.
Through his mentoring of me and guiding of the parish, and over a period of more than a year, the point was reached that the Vestry indicated they would like to consider issuing a call me. Many conversations ensued with Fr. Rich and Bishop Morse, and I sought counsel from friends both Anglican and Presbyterian, and my family. There were also two meetings for questions and answers, first with the Vestry and then with members of the parish. During this process the Vestry submitted a call to the Bishop and Standing Committee and received their approval. Yesterday, after another conversation with Bishop Morse, I indicated my desire to accept the call.
In a little over two weeks, on May 17, during his episcopal visit to the parish, Bishop Morse will, God willing, institute me as Rector. (The Anglican lingo can be a little challenging. Trying to tell one of our sons about this, my wife said I would be "institutionalized." I am not sure her choice of words was not a Freudian slip.)
The challenges are many and substantial. I do not have answers or solutions for them and have told both the Vestry and the parish so.
One of the greatest challenges is succeeding
(definitely not replacing) Fr. Rich. He has spent his whole ministry in the Reformed Episcopal Church. (His wife, Joan, or, as I call her, St. Joan is that rare member who was born into the REC.) Rich has a wealth of experience and wisdom. His talents seem endless - pastoral, liturgical, theological, artistic (he designed the REC shield), musical, executive, architectural, horticultural, to name a few. He is consistent, persistent, wise, caring, genuine, temperate, energetic, indefatigable. Those who know him will know I do not exaggerate about him. Those who know me will know that I am not that man. To use contemporary terms, I don't have his "gift set" nor, for that matter, his character set.
He is in many ways a Father Tim. Or, if you will, a Christian pastor.
I could, like the writer of Hebrews, go on to speak of Joan, a model pastor's wife
and parish coordinator. But that would be another lengthy blog, and she would probably kill me.
Rich and Joan are not going anywhere - else I would quite possibly not have accepted the call. There are a number of projects of his we need to complete. I have asked him to "assist" me as I have assisted him. Both are a vital part of our parish.
Another challenge is that we are small and our average age is high. We have 19 confirmed members which we trust will increase by 2 when the Bishop visits. As a Presbyterian pastor I have gone to a number of places with a number of ideas, some good, some bad, about leading, planning, strategizing, working with the leadership to help a congregation grow and develop. I have told the parish that I have no ideas about what to do here except to believe the 39 Articles, worship by the Book of Common Prayer, minister the Word and Sacraments, and work and pray with them that God might look on us with favor.
One of the things I do remember from the Mitford novels is how often Fr. Tim prayed the prayer that is always answered - "thy will be done." It is a prayer that is always effective, but, while it must condition every petition, it is often the hardest prayer to pray. May God work his will and be pleased to show his favor among and through us at Covenant Reformed Episcopal Church.
O God, Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful, visit, we pray thee, this congregation with thy love and favour; enlighten their minds more and more with the light of the everlasting Gospel; graft in their hearts a love of the truth; increase in them true religion; nourish them with all goodness; and of thy great mercy keep them in the same, O blessed Spirit, whom, with the Father and the Son together, we worship and glorify as one God, world without end. Amen.(From the Office of Institution of Ministers into Parishes or Churches)