On the 34th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood

On December 14 I celebrated 34 years as a priest of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. It was a Sunday morning, the Bishop of New York, The Right Reverend Paul Moore was coming to the Parish of Christ the Redeemer in Pelham, New York to Confirm our Confirmation Class. It was decided to have an Ordination and Confirmation Celebration. What a day. My best friends were there Al Grey, Tom Winslow, Russ Griffin, Bob Wagonseil; plus my Rector David Hoag, a diaconal classmate Sandye Wilson; my parents, brother and their wives, etc. A great day, but only the beginning of a priestly ministry.
As I now reflect on those 34 years and earlier, I am grateful to God for putting in life lay people and clergy who have helped form who I am as a priest. Honestly, I can’t believe it’s been 34 years. I still remember being the young guy going to Diocesan Conventions and Clergy Conferences, knowing that I had much to learn, and believe it or not, listening instead of talking. At our clergy conference this Fall, I remarked to Fr. Russ Griffin “Remember when we first started coming to clergy conferences, all those old priests, now we are them.”

I have gone places I never would have imagined, accomplished things (like earning a Doctor of Ministry degree and being honored as a Canon in the Diocese of Bethlehem) that weren’t even on the horizon so long ago. Yet I am the same person, continually reformed by the “Potter” and those he has sent to be with me.

The life of the church has changed quite a bit over these years – computers, cell phones, sound systems, and more. New denominations have arisen and our people are drawn every Sunday and perhaps every day away from Church and the worship of Almighty God, and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. I believe the Church is failing, not because we haven’t been relevant (God knows we have tried), but because we have not followed the Great Commission “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

We need to form disciples of Jesus Christ, instead of just getting church members. Disciples know the Holy Scriptures, worship regularly, give for the building of the Kingdom, share the love of God and serve the world in Jesus’ name, and proclaim the Good News in Jesus Christ.

Sometimes I think the Church has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), we can’t stay focused on one thing, even it is the main thing. We had a Decade of Evangelism in the 90’s, but never really stayed at it for the whole decade. Then we had the 2020 movement of doubling the size of the Church by the year 2020. With five years to go, we haven’t heard about it in years, and the web site designed to help us get there hasn’t been updated since 2004. We go from one issue to another, not that they haven’t been important, but that we haven’t returned to the basics.

I propose that the Church, specifically the Episcopal Church needs to return, refocus on the basics of the faith: Evangelism (adopted by its 1973 General Convention: “The presentation of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in such ways that persons may be led to believe in him as Savior and follow him as Lord, within the fellowship of his Church.”); Christian Formation (not education, but the forming of Christian disciples); and Stewardship (recognizing that everything we have and are, are God’s, therefore, everything we say and do after we say we believe).

I apologize if these are the ramblings of an old priest, but I hope one who has some wisdom based upon God’s grace, 34 years of experience as a priest, and 61 years as a disciple of Jesus Christ lived out in the Episcopal Church.

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