Thank you! I have grown through the opportunities to preach, celebrate, visit you pastorally, work with vestry and various committees, explore The New Jim Crow, Palm Sunday witness in the East Yard, connect with residents in the neighborhood, and delight in the unique gifts of music, worship, and witness that St. Mark’s offers to the church and world. Now we go our separate ways, you to live into ministry with The Rev. Anne Sawyer, me to begin a new interim position at St. Barnabas in Irvington, NY; a suburban, more traditional congregation, active and faithful in different ways. The diocese asks that both former interims and members of congregations give each other space to live into these new adventures, and I will honor that practice. Goodbyes make me sad, and yet that’s a sign of the blessings of my interactions with you.

A final book to share with you: I’ve fallen in love with a new author, Pádraig Ó Tuama, whose book In The Shelter is a combination of storytelling, experiences of conflict resolution in Northern Ireland/the North of Ireland, theological skepticism, insights into being Jesuit and gay, and biblical reflection. His gentle acknowledgement of the blessings and rough edges of human interaction speaks to our time together, and suggests ways to  be Christian with integrity, conviction and humility in a world desperately in need of all those blessings.

Ó Tuama writes, “The fourth gospel tells of Jesus arriving in the room where the disciples are gathered, full of fear, on Easter Sunday. He does not chide or admonish; instead he says, ‘Peace be with you,’ which, in the Aramaic in his day, was simply a greeting. To people locked in a room of fear he said ‘Hello’, welcoming them to a place of deep encounter: encounter with themselves, with their fear, with each other and with the incarnate one in their midst.”

“Encounter” encapsulates for me parish ministry, especially in an interim period as a congregation examines its core values and new opportunities. Thank you again for the opportunity to serve and learn with you. Here’s Ó Tuama again, with an image of prayer that might help us all move more deeply into resurrection life, this Easter season and always:

Neither I nor the poets I love have found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit.  But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God and my own disorder. I say hello to chaos, my unmade decisions, and my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day. I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day. I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet.

Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast.