By the time you are reading this in early October, I will have returned from making a family trip down to New Orleans. This trip is both personal and professional for me. You see, I have the honor of baptizing my grandson on the 29th of September.

Early on in my priesthood I had a wise retired priest point out to me how blessed we are as clergy because we get to be included in the most significant moments in our parishioners lives. We are present soon after a child is born when we baptize them into the Body of Christ. Later we are present when they are adults, often young newly independent adults, when we officiate at their weddings and they become one flesh. Finally, we are present whenever they depart this world to enter into God’s Kingdom, and we say goodbye to them at their funerals. I’ve had the privilege of being present at these important times in life more times than I can begin to count.

Now, almost 30 years into my priesthood, I am discovering how truly blessed I am that I can also be present to Hatch’em, Match’em, and Dispatch’em, as a priest for my own family. Twelve years ago I was asked to officiate at both of my fathers’ funerals. A couple years later it was my mother’s funeral. Over the past few years I have officiated at my niece’s wedding and also at two of my own children’s weddings. Thirty years ago I baptized my niece. And now, I have been asked to baptize my almost one year old grandson.

These are indeed important moments in life. As a priest, I’ve baptized over 600 people. I’ve officiated at the weddings of over 400 couples. I’m grateful that I am no longer prohibited from doing so based on the gender of the two people getting married. I have also officiated at nearly 500 funerals. There have been so many times where I’ve been allowed to be present when God has also been present.

Now that I’m older, I can better appreciate what it means to be part of a circle of life. God continues to create and bring new life into the world. God finds a way to bring together parents that will perpetuate love by nurturing new life. Finally, God will welcome home our souls when our physical time here has ended.

When my bishop ordained me into Holy Orders and thus set me apart for ministry, my elderly and wise priest friend was right, I might not have realized it at the moment, but I was blessed.

God’s Peace, Mark+