Tuesday, July 17, 2007

680 Sundays

...or thereabouts; I didn't do a precise count, but that's pretty close to the number of Sundays in thirteen years. And I didn't even do a rough count of the eucharistic celebrations over which I presided, though it has to be over 2000.

70 baptisms (mostly children), 56 candidates presented for Confirmation or Reception (mostly adults), 112 burials on my watch (86 of whom were active parishioners), 21 marriages (I don't run no stinkin' wedding chapel, apparently).

Oh...and around 150 vestry meetings, give or take. But who's counting?

Perhaps the most gratifying statistic of all is that there were a third again more people present for my last service than there were for my first on August 13, 1994--and even more than showed up for my institution three weeks later. I'm not sure what that says, but it's probably something good.

How does one measure a ministry? With numbers like these? Partially, I suspect, though the numbers leave a lot unsaid. Yesterday it was measured with love and gratitude, cut with a good bit of grief and some fear and anxiety all around. But mostly love. Love from and toward those who have been my strongest supporters, love from and toward those whom I have known to be my detractors, and (most surprisingly), love from and toward a whole bunch of people whom I have not known to be either allies or antagonists, but just there. It was luminous, it was mystical, it was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

The choir--including several "alumni" from over the years--came back together from their summer hiatus to honor their director from Pluto, who is accompanying me on this Indiana odyssey. They sang John Rutter's setting of "The Lord bless you and keep you..." right before the post-communion prayer. Not a dry eye...at least not mine, and I don't ordinarily "do" crying.
In the evening, after a meal and a long nap, I came back alone to finish moving out of the Rector's office. With that task complete, and my small SUV loaded, before walking away, I let my memory race over the array of conversations and confessions and even some confrontations that had taken place in that room. Then I repaired to the dimly-lit church, fired up the organ, and slipped a disk into the digital sequencer containing the MIDI files from the dedicatory recital in 1999. The Barber Adagio seemed to strike the most appropriate note for the occasion.

I listened. I remembered. I wept some more. And I prayed. Lord, you know I love these people, and I know you love them, because the sufficiency of your love has compensated for the inadequacy of mine. Love them still, Father. Love them still. Supply their needs from the abundance of your grace. Prosper the ministry of this parish.

One last time, as I have done on countless Saturday afternoons, I stood in the crossing, right under the center of the lantern tower, and lifted my hands toward the altar, holding up before the eyes of the One from whom no secrets are hid the souls committed to my charge, and asked Him to take them and do for them more than I even know to ask for.

And having done that, I now stand relieved, ready to take up my new assignment.

7 comments:

Bobby J. Kennedy said...

Thanks for posting this. I pray you have a bright and fruitful ministry ahead of you.

Ed Little said...

Dan,

You are in my prayers as you prepare to join us in Northern Indiana. I praise God for your faithful ministry at St. John's. You have exalted the name of Jesus and touched countless lives. I look forward to welcoming you to St. Anne's!

Yours in Christ,
Ed Little

Jim said...

Thank you for all you have done. Godspeed. We will miss you.
Jim Telander

Rob Eaton+ said...

Exactly.

Mousie's Mommy said...

Didn't get to read this post until I returned from vacation, thus the late comment. This was the most beautiful and very best post! My eyes watered and my spirit soared. How very blessed we have been to have you as "ours" for all these years. My prayers go with you as you become "theirs!" Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you and Brenda have done for St. Johns and for me! I already miss you greatly but am excited for what lies ahead for you in your new ministry and for all of us who remain here! I keep remembering what you said...God is good..all the time!

Lisa Grimmett said...

Job well done Fr. Dan. Thank you for the journey and being our shepherd. Love from one of your biggest fans, Lisa

Caminante said...

Well, Dan, if I ever leave Saint Mary's, I will remember your experience of leaving Saint John's. Blessings on the next adventure. Lee