Our Blog Space
A collection of thoughts, inspiration, prayers, announcements, or anything else relevant.
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+
The past few years of us dealing with the COVID pandemic has created a much bigger
disturbance in my life that I originally thought that it did. So many aspects of my life had their own
unique rhythms and now I’m discovering they are all out of sync. Certain things in my world once brought me dependable comfort because I could depend on them. Now it seems the loss of them can be a source of great distress. This was made abundantly clear to me during my own recent bout with COVID.
Like so many of you I have taken all the shots. After two and a half years, I was confident I had
been spared the worst. This turned out not to be the case. The deadly respiratory virus found me and
punished me with a vengeance. I woke up on a Saturday morning and instantly knew something was
very wrong. My body was aching. I had a low grade fever. My head was congested and I felt as if I had
been run over by a truck. So, I took an at home test and watched it quickly turn positive.
For the first time in my priesthood, I missed two consecutive Sundays because I was sick. Then
the virus spread from me to my wife. Next it went to our daughter. We were officially living in a
quarantine zone. For a week we didn’t leave the house or go anywhere. Life was turned upside down.
I finally saw firsthand what so many millions of others knew about COVID. It has been a slow recovery
process to get back to whatever is the new normal in life.
Churches across the country have learned how to overcome the COVID disruption and find a
rhythm once again. Social gatherings that were cancelled are starting to return. There was no
in-person worship for over a year. Now people are coming back to church along with those who found
us online. Gone were the first Sunday morning breakfasts with mountains of bacon. Bingo and other
outreach offerings were postponed. We had to discontinue the nursery on Sunday mornings. All these
things are returning in September.
Here we are almost three years into a post COVID world, and we are having to find new ways to
live together. Some of us now work from home. Students understand that the wearing of masks might
come back in a moment’s notice. We are just starting to come out of forced isolation.
A new rhythm in our common life is emerging. We have let go of some traditions that no longer
have meaning nor relevance in our lives. We can once again embrace those things we have missed and
now we want them back. As our BCP reminds us, “Life has changed, not ended.” COVID is not going
away anytime soon. So be it.
We the Church will focus on what the new 21st Century Church can and will be. We will learn to
adapt and overcome any and all obstacles, some that we couldn’t even imagine before. We accept that a
church in 2023 and beyond will need to have a regular online presence. New opportunities to witness
the mission of the church, like the Blessings Box outside our parish offices will now become part of us.
We will double down and reinvest in human relationships because our hearts are heavy over the loss of
over 1.3 million souls as a result of this pandemic.
Pre or post pandemic, the basic mission of the Church remains the same. “Love the Lord your
God will all your hearts, all your minds, and all your strength.” The second part is like unto it. “You will
love your neighbor as yourself.” So, let’s get busy and rediscover what that new rhythm is.
We are officially past the 21st of June, so that means the days are now getting shorter and the nights are getting longer as we move closer into the fall. It used to be that the school year began in September right after Labor Day. That is no longer the case. Gradually over time the start day for a new school has now been pushed up almost to the beginning of August.
“Time keeps on slipping into the future,” as the Steve Miller Band said in the song Fly Like an Eagle. Time is elusive. We want more of it. Sometimes when we are excited about the future we can’t wait for it to pass. Nonetheless, time is constant and relentless in its marching on.
A few things told you that school was almost ready to start like the gathering up of new school supplies for the new year. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how many parishioners have been generously dropping off school backpacks and school supplies to share with the children of Morristown. Thank you all!
Starting the year with a new backpack and school supplies sets the tone for the whole year. You feel good about a new year. You feel that the past is behind you and what is ahead has endless possibilities. You are no longer focused on old mistakes. This is a new year and it is filled with the hope of the future.
At the beginning of the school year I always hold what has lovingly become known as the Crayon Mass at the first chapel service. There is also a Blessing of the Backpacks. Each child lines them up their pack on the floor in front of the altar. During the homily I hold up a large Box of 64 Crayons (the one with the built in sharpener), and I remind the children that a new school year is like a new box of crayons.
The point of each crayon is new and unbroken. The protective paper hasn’t yet been peeled back. There is nothing like the feel and smell of a new box of crayons. The kids get it. They are quick to make the connection between a simple box of crayons and a new school year.
I simply place a couple hundred new crayons in a basket. Next I tell each child when they come forward for communion to choose a color crayon of their liking and keep it. I want them to hold on to it as an icon for their future. Not surprisingly, the orange ones go first. This is after all Volunteer country. In Baton Rouge it was the purple colors that went first.
Regardless of what color crayon a child chooses it is theirs. It is a reminder that they have a big say in how successful this new year will be. Anything is possible. It doesn’t matter how broken any of us are. It doesn’t matter if our point is worn down and our paper covering is peeled back or we are broken into two pieces. We can each be made new once again.
It really makes me wonder. If the children can so easily understand this message, then why is it so hard for the adults to do the same?