These are reflections on my decision to pursue Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church. There will be reflections on this process from time to time as I take my steps toward ministry in this church.
It was hidden in the midst of the other stuff that comes in Friday or Saturday mail. I had missed them, because Friday evening I streamed out of work around 3:30 p.m., hoping to make it to the Bohemian highway by at least 5:30. I was headed up to St. Dorothy's Rest for a retreat for staff, clergy, and vestry of Trinity Church, San Francisco. It was a difficult drive after the ease of 280; there was the stop and go of 19th Avenue, a breeze through the Park and then up Park Presidio into the tunnel and onto the Bridge. It wasn't until we began to approach the Richmond Bridge entrance and exits that it slowed down all through San Rafael, then the approach to, and the long ride through Petaluma. There was final freedom at route 116, and a quick ride through Sebastopol, Freestone (where they bake the best bread at Wild Grain), Occidental, and finally Camp Meeker. There we climb Tower Road to reach St. Dorothy's Rest. As I drive by the chapel I recall many happy memories of other retreats that I have participated in here: St. Francis, ECP, and others.
Our purpose is to describe, 1, 3, and 5 year goals for Trinity Church. To do that we will hole-up in Lydia House, a lovely structure that literally hangs over the Bohemian Highway, and overlooks the woods of the Bohemian Grove to the north. This is work with which I am familiar, having done it for years in the credit union world, and for parish churches as well as other institutions. What is different this time is what role will I play? Still walking a careful path, I am neither fish nor fowl here.
Earlier in the month I had a conversation with the Canon to the Ordinary, Michael Barlowe, which was congenial, welcoming, and positive. I've filled out paperwork, allowed for a Background Check, and similar things. It is a waiting game however. And that, I find, is a blessed thing, in which one can really determine what one's call is, and how tenacious the voice. At times I think, "Oh, Michael, give it a rest!" But the ideas, the call, the love of it all comes quickly back to me.
This retreat tests my resolve to be of service. In the course passing paperwork back and forth, I read the Rector's description of the job. Fr. James writes in his letter of recommendation that the ministry I will be pursuing is that of the "Associate Priest for Education and Formation." Spot on! What I love, what I am compelled to do, what satisfies me most, other than a profound bow during the Sanctus at the altar, is this business of education and formation. Upon leaving St. Francis, it was these elements that people mentioned most. I am at home.
I find that I grow into the role, as progress in the course of the retreat. I have ideas, techniques, study, and 36 years of experience at my side, as I wade into these new waters. The goals that are described by all of us are ambitious, but the diverse team of lay and clergy present at Trinity will make it interesting and soul satisfying labor. As we end the retreat on Sunday afternoon, we take home with us paper and ideas, charts and dreams, tasks and rewards. One of the vestry members asks me to lead her down the switch-back roads from St. Dorothy's Rest, and I gladly do so. As we travel from there over to the Bodega Highway, I'm not leading nor is she followingI've found a fellow traveler.
It is good to get home. Arthur soon arrives, and Anna after him. The mail from Friday and Saturday is set on the key board of my computer. I glance at it, SFMOMA, Insurance bills, catalogues, and an envelope that peeks out The Office of the Bishop of California. I hadn't noticed it. I open it to find my License to Officiate:
So, there amongst all the ordinary stuff of life is this letter that continues my ministry. The journey is by no means complete, but I rejoice to have reached this one plateau, and look forward to working with the people at Trinity.
Whenever we arrive at home, Arthur and I look at one
another, and I usually say, "Thank you for having gotten us safely
here." These are appropriate words at this moment; along with "Deo
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