I’m not sure I could have seen this day coming some 30 years ago. Back in 1994 as a newly ordained deacon in the Diocese of Western Louisiana, 30 years in the future was way far beyond my visible horizon. Yet, here I am in 2024 preparing to retire from active parish ministry here in East Tennessee on June 2nd.

There has been so much that has happened over the course of my priesthood these past three decades. I’ve moved from the Diocese of Western Louisiana, to the Diocese of Louisiana, to the Church of Ireland, and now finally to the Diocese of East Tennessee. In every situation I’ve encountered good and faithful people who love and serve Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

There was a time in my priesthood when I really believed it was important for everyone to walk together as one in their faith journey. Now, I have come to understand that each person’s faith journey is their own. Walking together as one body is not nearly as important as it is for us to walk individually in a direction that brings each one of us closer to God. It is a lifelong journey that has no set finish line. Each step we take in faith draws us just a bit closer in our relationship with God.

As I look back on my priesthood there is so much for which I’m truly grateful. I am thankful for the seven Bishops that I’ve served under. I am thankful for the 18 Associate Priests and 3 Deacons with whom I have shared parish ministry. I’m especially thankful for the wise council of the men and women who have served as my Sr. and Jr. wardens during my tenure. I am forever indebted to the highly skilled Parish Administrators who kept me focused on the tasks in front of me. I am eternally grateful for the skilled Organist & Choirmasters who have enhanced years of worship. I’ve loved all of the many Youth Mission Trips of which I was a part. I treasure the work we accomplished together, the laughter we shared, and all the many times we sang the words to “Alice’s Restaurant” together in the 15 passenger vans while traveling down the road.

Our Presiding Bishop has noted, “If it is not about love, then it is not about God.” Truer words have never been spoken. I marvel at a Church that continues to find the courage to move forward opening up our hearts to welcome those who were once considered outcasts. I am amazed at our infinite ability to forgive and be reconciled. I have come to appreciate how the fragile the Church can be and at the same time how resilient people of deep faith really are.

A leather bound BCP/Hymnal lasts me about ten years. I’ve given the first two to my son and my oldest daughter. I’ll give the last one to my youngest daughter on June 2nd. I’ve purchased a final BCP/Hymnal for my retirement. I want everyone who would like, to write inside a note, a message, or a particular memory you might want to share. This BCP/Hymnal will be the one that someday in the future I will want used at my burial. There is no way I could have envisioned ending my active priesthood here in the mountains of East Tennessee. I’m so glad that All Saints’ is where God brought Liz and I. We have found our forever home here in Morristown, Tennessee.

God’s Peace & My Love,

Mark+