Lenten Surprises

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Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

 – Collect for Lent I, Common Worship.

We are in our first official week of Lent 2017. This year for Lent, in addition to the traditional rituals (praying, fasting, etc), I’m participating in Lent Madness. It is a tournament of saints in which the winner is crowned with the “Golden Halo.” The winning participant not only learns about saints that are often looked over in the Church, but will have bragging rights in their local church should they be successful. I’ve completed my bracket and I’m doing pretty good. Suffered 1 early loss, but it happens.

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However, I was able to learn about a man who impacted the Church and the southern part of the United States. That man is Bishop Henry Beard Delany.

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Bp. Delany is the second Black Bishop in the Episcopal Church. He served as Suffragan in the Diocese of North Carolina (1918-1928). He also served as Chaplain at the historical St. Augustine’s College (now university) in North Carolina. He was instrumental in retaining Blacks in the Episcopal Church despite the segregationist posture the Church took post-American Civil War and during Jim Crow.

In all honesty, I am very much conflicted with Bishop Delany. On the one hand, he provided a refuge for Black Episcopalians by being instrumental in the creation of separate Black churches, religious facilities and ecclesiastical structure while remaining a member of the Episcopal Church. However, some of his contemporaries took the bold step and left the Episcopal Church and joined other communions, primarily the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, in order to model that Blacks should not be treated as second class citizens within their own religious communities.

It is the same situation that occurred between Bishop Richard Allen and Fr. Absalom Jones after their departure from the Methodist Church. Bishop Allen went on to establish the A.M.E. Church, the nation’s first denomination to be founded by people of African descent. Fr. Jones went on to establish the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Pennsylvania, and became the Episcopal Church’s (and the nation’s) first ever Black priest in 1804.*

I encourage you to use this Lenten season to reflect, pray, and grow in your relationship with God. Fasting is great but it’s not enough. Often enough, learning about the lives of those before us can inspire us to dive deeper in our spiritual lives.

– JMH+

*Fr. Augustus Tolton of the Roman Catholic Church was ordained a priest in 1886. Bishop James Healy, of the Roman Catholic Church was ordained in 1854, and self identified as Irish-American despite being biracial.

The End of an Era…

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Former United States President Barack H. Obama II, Former First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha Obama.

My president is black, my Lambo’s blue
And I’ll be ***damned if my rims ain’t too
My money’s light green and my Jordans light grey…

 – Young Jeezy feat. Nas, “My President”, The Recession, 2008

The above rap song was recorded shortly after then Sen. Barack Obama clinched enough delegates to secure the nomination of the Democratic Party in the 2008 United States Presidential Election. How do I know? Jeezy states the date and time at the end of the track. This leads me to believe that he, like many Americans, was watching the final primary numbers come in for both Senators Obama and Clinton. It was a historical night for America, and especially Black America.

As a child, I NEVER thought I would live to see the day a Black man, with an unapologetic Black wife, with Black children would occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At most, there may be one in Observatory Circle; and that was a stretch. This thinking was justified for many reasons. Considering that the closest Black person to achieve a Presidential nomination of a major party is also the same man who, in several circles, is thought of as an opportunistic charlatan. Other Black American candidates (Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), Rev. Al Sharpton (D-NY), Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) and Alan Keys (R-MD) did not appear to have a viable chance in winning the “Highest Office in the Land” during their respective runs. They were often ridiculed for even attempting to run for the position. Many political pundits, sketch comedy writers/comedians, and talk show hosts wondered loudly “Why did they bother?”

However, in 2004, out came Barack Hussein Obama onto the world stage. He had a incredible pedigree; Harvard and Columbia graduate, State Senator, Constitutional Lawyer, and was “safe Black.” “Safe Black” is the Black person who wont cause people to cross the street, clutch purses, call the police, stop and frisk, or follow them around in the store. It also didn’t hurt that he is biracial; having a Kenyan father and White American mother from Kansas. It wasn’t long before he would become the 44th President of the United States.

In the midst of the eight years of the Obama Presidency,  the social climate in our country had ebbed and flowed. We have seen great racial unity in the midst of tragedy, but we have seen great division everywhere else. It was quite difficult because rather than celebrate the milestone of racial progress our nation had made, we spend it either legitimizing or attempting to make illegitimate Obama’s Presidency. From Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) selfish declaration to the rise of the Tea Party our nation had squandered a moment of progress and turned it to a moment of regress.

As a African American father (in both the religious and biological sense) it was difficult watching the news with my son. The anti-Obama rhetoric was deafening. It came from both Liberals and Conservatives and Black Americans heard it loud and clear. We heard two things:

  1. He has policies that some people disagree with, like any politician.
  2. He is a n***** who stole the election! He is a Muslim fraud and “WE” need to take our country back!

Let me make one thing clear: This is not an apology for President Obama. I fall into the first category. I have great misgivings on some aspects of his presidency. I know there are many Americans who do. However, the tone and tenor of our nation seems to be number two. It’s just that some people are willing to admit it than others. It crosses political persuasions. It’s not just racist, KKK card carrying White Southerners. Its a diverse crowd who bought into the racial rhetoric. Interestingly enough, I’m not alone in this. If I needed it, I have a former President saying the same thing not once, not twice, but multiple times. That same President is still speaking about the racist tone of our political landscape and American society at large.

With that said, I like many Black Americans are conflicted with President Obama’s term ending. For me, its bittersweet. Its bitter because I’m more doubtful now that ever that my children will seen another president that looks like them in my lifetime. This is evident of the election of someone who is President Obama’s complete opposite. Its sweet for two reasons:

  1. I don’t have to wonder, if my friend, neighbor, colleague, associate who is saying number 1, really means number 2.
  2. I don’t have to listen to unrelenting discrediting, racist bashing, and overall disgusting rhetoric directed to another Black man and his family, the same one who holds the “Highest Seat in the Land.”

In many ways, we as a nation, blew an opportunity to grow and prosper from within. In actuality, we are less safe (some more than others) than we before. And the threat lies in our lack saying what we mean, and meaning what we say.

-JMH+

Ecumenical Advent III

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

– Book of Common Prayer, 1979


Yesterday was the Third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” is the Latin translation for the word “rejoice” or “joy.” The color used to symbolize this theme is rose and the scriptural references pertain to the joy or rejoicing of the coming of the Lord.


This past Gaudete Sunday, I preached at a congregational church in my neighborhood. It was a surreal experience. The day before, I served on the Interim Pastor’s Ordination Council, who is a Baptist. This particular church is a beacon in my community. As a kid, I would go there and receive bread. I would from time to time shop at their thrift store. Being born into poverty, one appreciates the generosity and love of a community oriented church. If one were to ask 7 year-old JM if he would be preaching at that church, he would have been horrified at the idea.

It was difficult preaching to this congregation knowing that there are people who are not joyful because of the life circumstances they are in. It’s difficult knowing that during this Advent and Christmastide, there are people (inside and outside of this congregation) whose dinner tables and living rooms will be missing people who were there in 2015. It’s sad knowing that some people will not have a dinner table or a living room due to events in 2016.

Advent and Christmastide are to be joyous events. We are anticipating the arrival of the Christ child. However, it has been overshadowed by commercialism, selfish ambition and greed. It is my prayer that we can return to the true meaning of Advent. That we reflect on our lives, and the coming of the Lord. Perhaps if we do that, we can save ourselves from missing the true meaning of Christmas or the Mass of Christ.

– Fr. JMH

Mother Teresa Becomes Saint Teresa

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Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.

 – Prayer of Mother Teresa

The first time I heard of Mother Teresa was the result of a punchline. I’m sure many of you have heard it before:

“Oh, you think you are a goody-two-shoes, huh? Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa?”

I had no idea who the, now, Saint Teresa was, but I knew she was someone who was deemed good, almost perfect. As time went on, I would see images of this little Albanian-Indian woman praying for those who were sick, impoverished, whom the scriptures would refer to as “the least of these”, worldwide. I would see images of people moved to uncontrollable tears while in her presence. It had a deep impact on me. I would dig deeper and find out what it meant for her to be a “Mother” and a nun. My Baptist upbringing did give me a good foundation to start from, with our cultural use of the term “Mother” in regards to an elderly woman who has had a tremendous impact on the local church community. Mother Teresa had an enormous impact on the world as a whole. She was often referred to as the “living saint.”

However; as to be expected in our increasingly anti-religious, Western society; there were critics afoot. People who could not stand having someone, an unabashedly religious person, who was deemed “saintly” revered worldwide. So, the critics started digging for dirt, and when you dig for dirt, you are bound to find some mess.

Critics of St.Teresa address primarily two issues, financial transparency and proselytizing of patients. In 1994, questions arose regarding the fact that her charity raises “millions of dollars” however her facilities are not in the best condition and her patients did not receive the best health care, according to western standards (including medication, treatment and the like). Also, that some of the money in which her charity received, may have been dirty (from dictators, embezzlers, mobsters, etc).

Prominent self-described “anti theist” Christopher Hitchens has been critical of the above, but his main critique is St. Teresa’s unabashedly Catholic message. He exposed Mother Teresa and her sisters baptizing dying patients (with or without their knowledge), her conservative stances (anti-abortion, anti-contraception, etc) and her embrace of suffering being a measure and test of faith.

Some Indian historians/authors, such as Chitrita Banerji, Aroup Chatterjee and Vijay Prashad have stated that St. Teresa is the representation of European paternalism on people of color in developing nations. There are accusations that she desired fame and the spread of the Catholic faith more than the health and well-being of the people of Calcutta. That in actuality, the city of Calcutta, its image, has been sullied. That its reputation is synonymous with being poor and destitute while St. Teresa is revered as a saintly woman.

All of these criticisms are warranted, however, I do wonder about the intent of those yielding the critiques. It is one thing if the criticism is done in a manner that is highlighting the flawed nature of humanity. As Congregationalist minister/theologian Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III refers to this as prophetic contradiction;  a person who has a prophet voice or calling, while also being flawed. If this is the intent, then I understand. However, it is an another thing when intent of the criticism is to besmirch the name or reputation of the subject. It is as if to say that their contributions and achievements are invalid because of their past mistakes. It seems to me that in our Western context, that seems to be the order of day.

Whit Sunday/Pentecost 2016

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Chadwick, Enid M. My Book of the Church’s Year. London: Mowbrays.

O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

 – Book of Common Prayer (REC), 2005


REFLECTION

 On this Sunday, I returned to the small parish in southern Massachusetts that I served for four years. It was a different experience being there as a Priest Associate, rather than the Vicar.

The sermon focused on the act of listening to the Holy Spirit, especially when dealing with those who are caught in the vice grip of addiction. Knowing that the congregation includes members who have dealt either directly or indirectly with addiction, it was received relatively well. I am aware that some may have felt the sermon was a bit of a downer considering that Pentecost is usually a “happy” occasion.

There has been this overwhelmingly positive response to the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts in very recent years. Sentencing laws are being lessened. There is a refocus on health care facilities for addicts and an all hands on deck” response for those who may potentially overdose. It seems like every Tom, Dick and Harriet has a dosage of Narcan in their possession. There are scores of stories of addicts, neighbors, waitresses, nightclub bouncers and police officers administrating “the shot” to an overdose victim. All in all, it’s a positive response.

However, I’m concerned about the longevity of this compassionate response.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/crack-heroin-and-race/401015/

I highlighted the lack of care shown by the citizens of this nation towards those who were addicted to crack/cocaine in the 70s – 90s in the inner cities. In actuality, it was an adversarial response to addicts. And those addicts were disproportionately Black and poor.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/there-was-no-wave-of-compassion-when-addicts-were-hooked-on-crack/

They were not only laughed at (countless images of crackheads being lampooned on sitcoms), they were also feared (incarcerated at THE HIGHEST RATES IN THE WORLD). Television shows like Cops showed the inner city, “crackheads, welfare queens, and thug damaging America”. These “super-predators were destroying America!” This sort of response greatly damaged (perhaps destroyed) an entire generation of the Black race in the United States.

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With this new response to the opioid epidemic that overwhelmingly impacts middle class whites in suburbia, one can not help but point the stark differences. In the end, this new compassionate approach is important. We are encouraged to listen to the Holy Spirit when it comes to the least of these. It is my hope and prayer that we continue to do so, rather than smother Her (the Holy Spirit) voice, like we did 30 years ago.

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 – JMH+

St. Anselem of Canterbury

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Almighty God, you raised up your servant Anselm to teach the Church of his day to understand its faith in your eternal Being, perfect justice, and saving mercy: Provide your Church in every age with devout and learned scholars and teachers, that we may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 – Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2006


REFLECTION

St. Anselm served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 – 1109 AD. He was a Benedictine monk, then abbot, and ultimately elevated to the rank of Archbishop. He was a reluctant to accept the appointment, as he was very introspective and did not have political aspirations. He was also involved (directly and/or indirectly) with the Investiture Controversy of the 11th and 12th centuries. His primary concern was serving the people of England, not advancing his clerical-political career.

It seems that I was destined to have a relationship, if only a passing one, with St. Anselm. I recall in high school, being pressed by one of the school administrators to attend “St. A’s” in New Hampshire “because its a good, small, Catholic school.” Despite me not being Roman Catholic, the Benedictines could not compete with the Jesuits, so I did not attend St. Anselm College.

Fast forward a couple of years, I am now an Anglican, reading about the lineage of the Archbishops of Canterbury. I stumble upon the name of St. Anselm. In the end, it kind of comes full circle for me.

St. Anselm represents what is needed in Christ’s Church;  clergy who are concerned with the souls of those who placed in their care. What I see now is a growing clergy body composed of careerists. His Holiness Pope Francis addressed this very thing early in his pontificate. This is something that affects all the church, not just non denominational, Pentecostal churches. The constant chase for purple shirts and titles is leaving those who need spiritual nourishment behind. Hopefully, we can address this before it’s too late.

 – JMH+

Easter 2016

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Almighty, God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through* Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

 – Book of Common Prayer, 1928

 REFLECTION

This past Holy Week and Easter was jammed packed and quite reflective. It was quite busy (as it is for all clergy) and marked both a beginning and an end point in my life’s journey.


HOLY  WEDNESDAY

While walking in downtown Boston, I passed by King’s Chapel where a sign stated that a service will begin in an hour. After completing whatever task I had to complete, I attended their service. It was interesting to say the least. King’s Cross is technically the first Anglican church in New England, during the reign of King James II (yes, that King James on your Bible). After some time, the church altered its identity. It is now, and have been for some time, Unitarian Universalist in theology, Congregational in polity and Anglican in worship. With that said, it was different but not foreign. Although I do not align with King’s Chapel theologically, they were warm, friendly and an expression of Christianity that is quite positive.


MAUNDY THURSDAY

It began with me attending Maundy Thursday service at my (being where I live, not where I serve) parish church, the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont. Ironically enough, I participated in the foot washing ceremony! The Rector greeted me as a I walked in and asked me if I wanted to take part; I responded in the affirmative! It was a humbling experience having a clergy colleague and friend wash my feet. Also, the stripping of the altars took place, which was done with great reverence and precision. As the lights went out (symbolizing the capture and removal of Jesus of Nazareth), the parishioners exited without fanfare, although it was quite dark. Below are a couple of pictures:



GOOD FRIDAY

In the early hours of the morning, I attended Watch night for an hour. Watch night is the act of being in the presence of the Lord via the Reserved Sacrament that is the Body of Christ. One literally sits in a dimly lit chapel, for an hour, reflecting on their lives in Christ. This is reminiscent of the disciples waiting for Jesus as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Gospel of Saint Matthew 26.36-46.

 

That afternoon, I preached what would be my last sermon at my (as in where I serve) parish, Anglican Church of the Redeemer, Norwood. It was bitter-sweet. It is bitter because there is so much more I wanted to do. It is sweet because I know that both the parish and I ended on a good note. Good being defined as them being uplifted spiritually from the sermon, despite being emotionally sad, due to the content and circumstances.

Later that evening, my family and I attended Good Friday service. It was beautiful as always. The Priest-in-Charge of the church my wife attended when I deployed, preached. She was very happy. Below are a couple of pictures.


EASTER SUNDAY

Easter was jammed packed! I celebrated the Easter Day Eucharist at Redeemer – Norwood while my colleague preached the homily. I then rushed back to Boston to grab my family to head to one of my friend’s church; St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Dorchester. After service, my little one was able to participate in an Easter Egg Hunt. I’m very thankful it did not turn out like the one at the Pez Headquarters. Later that evening, I watched His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis’ Easter Mass and Urbi et Orbi. Overall, a blessed, and quite reflective weekend.

Start at the 2:00:00 mark. 


PS: I do want to make mention, three people who have had an impact on my life due to their work in their respective fields died during Holy Week. They all exhibited the ability to take a high risk in their fields, despite the common sentiment at the time.

For Mother Angelica, starting EWTN and an interracial convent in the South was a risk. Malik Taylor, to be a rapper in a group  (A Tribe Called Quest) whose primary message was Black uplift with jazz infused music during the 1990s, despite pressure for a more aggressive sound from their record label, was a huge risk.Garry Shandling’s creative vision changed the way sitcoms are presented to the public. It has been noted that without The Larry Sanders Show, there would not be a Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, or The Office (both the American and British versions). To go against the common norm of a sketch comedy show was a risk for Shandling.

Please remember to keep their families in prayer.

Maundy Thurday 2016

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ALMIGHTY Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

 – The Book of Common Prayer, Reformed Episcopal Church Edition


REFLECTION

The last Maundy Thursday post I wrote was in 2014. I retold the story of my first foot washing experience. Since that last post, I have not participated in a foot washing ceremony.

It has not been by choice, but rather circumstance. The members of my parish did not practice the foot washing ritual but rather the Communion one. The Communion ritual of Maundy Thursday is the communal meal. I’ve experienced the entire spectrum of the Eucharist taken in unison while gathered around the altar, to an elaborate community meal. My parish practiced the former. As a Baptist, we would practice the latter.

I always wondered why my Anglican parishioners were hesitant in participating in the foot washing ceremony. The few times I brought it up, I was told “that’s not what we do.” Due to the parish being more “Protestant/Evangelical-leaning” and I, of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion, never tried to force the issue. I suspect that the beloved members of my parish did not feel comfortable in the intimacy that is foot washing. Even when attending one of my favorite parishes (when I’m not on duty) for Maundy Thursday, only 1 person had their feet washed by the Rector as everyone observed from the comfort of their pews.

I was beginning to think that it was an American phenomenon. That the intimacy of foot washing was too much for American Christians, despite much of the content of our television shows and movies. That was until I recently read the Maundy Thursday post from my brother priest, Fr. Esau McCaulley. He expressed the importance of the foot washing ceremony and the love of Christ that is embedded in it.

He is correct and that is why I am drawn to it. The amount of love, and humility that is shared in that moment. The fact that one has to serve and be served in the same setting is an amazing experience. I value the ritual because without experiencing it back in Mexico in 2004, as the lone Baptist with Roman Catholics, I may not have listened to God calling me to Anglicanism years later.

 – Fr. JMH

Hypocritical Outrage

Hypocrite

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 – Matthew 7.5 (ESV)

 REFLECTION

As time goes on, I find that my level toleration for blatant and unapologetic hypocrisy is fading to nothingness. This has become more evident as I watch the reactions of Americans to tragedies that occur outside of our nation. This is coming on the heels of the tragic events in Paris, and more recently Brussels. I want to reiterate that these are indeed tragedies. The lives lost can not be replaced. It is indicative of the sort of evil that permeates our world.

However, I can not help but feel slighted. I feel slighted that it seems that these tragedies elicit a response of sorrow, regret, and anger. Whereas the tragedies of Nigeria, and Istanbul receive mediocre coverage. [I had to look deep to find the hyperlinks] Let us not forget the scores of Black and Latinos who are being killed at the hands of fellow Americans daily.

I believe it’s a form of hypocrisy to have a response that is so emotional, so heartfelt for a group of people thousands of miles away, but have a negative, angry, and cold response to a group of people a few hundred miles away.

Am I sad for the people impacted in Paris and Brussels? Yes. I’m also sad for those who were killed in Nigeria and Istanbul a few days before. Terrorism is terrorism. Whether its brown-skinned “Islamic” extremists in the Middle East, or white-skinned “Christian” extremists in the United States. Whether you are screaming, “death to America” or “Go back to Africa”, you are creating an act of terror.

Until we are at a place where we can mourn for the dead, regardless of their skin color, we will always be nothing more than a bunch of racists liars, pawning off our corrupted form of democracy to the rest of the world.

Palm Sunday

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Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 – Book of Common Prayer, 1979


This 2016 Palm Sunday or Sunday of the Passion, was a little different for me. This Sunday was the celebration of my time at Redeemer Anglican Church, Norwood. I’ve spent four years there. Two years as an Associate Clergy, one year as the Assistant Vicar and finally, this past year as the Vicar. I skipped curacy due to my previous time as a Baptist Minister.

It was humbling and bittersweet. I was humbled by the love the congregation showed me. I was humbled by the love I was shown by my Baptist colleagues, whom we shared a worship space with. I was humbled by the list of accomplishments that were read as we walked together as Vicar and parish.

It is bittersweet because I know that I must depart in order for the congregation and I to continue growing in Christ. Typically in Anglican/Episcopal churches, the priest has a three-year term. Some stay later, as I did. It is sweet because I am excited about the direction both the parish and I will go, albeit, not together.

As one of my parishioners said “We are forever linked Father!” Indeed we are. This parish is my first Anglican congregation. I am the parish’s first “outside” (community, race, age, and diocese) Vicar. One never forgets the first of anything. May God bless the parish of the Church of the Redeemer, Norwood and the First Baptist Norwood communities. Until we meet again.