Cathedral News, October 8, 2017

 
 
 

Last week my reflections centered on what it feels like to leave a place, as well as the experience of revisiting locations that hold some importance in your life. Learning how to leave, and leave well, is a vital lesson in life, particularly as the world around us has become so much more transient and the currents of change continue to accelerate. I have said it many times: probably the most important thing to learn is how to say “good-bye.” A child isn’t very old before she knows what parting feels like, be it from a school, a friend, or a grandparent’s embrace at the end of vacation. “Good-bye” is a constant in our emotional vocabulary.

So is “hello.” The fact is that every parting is preceded by a greeting. This is what maintains some sort of balance in life. Remember the joy of greeting new friends when you moved to a new town or neighborhood. Even though it was difficult for some of us, it was great to make new friends in new schools, and some of those friendships endure through the decades that pass afterwards. Recall all the times you visited family members at celebration times; weddings, birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, graduations. The greetings at those times lift our spirits and strengthen the bonds of community and affection that we have for one another.

In the church, “hello” is just as important as “good-bye.” In fact, it’s probably more important, because not everyone thinks to bid farewell when they leave a parish, whether moving out of town or to another church. Everyone, though, says “hello” when they come to join a congregation. Learning how to greet people warmly and effectively is a vital life lesson, also.

I’ve been told by Cathedral members both recent and long-standing that we have gotten much better at saying “hello” to those who come through our doors. During my tenure as your Dean, we’ve worked hard to make sure that is so. Hospitality, true and genuine hospitality, has been one of the touchstones of my parochial ministry wherever I’ve served, and it has been no different here. People who tried the Cathedral years ago and rejected it for membership, experiencing it as cold and unwelcoming, have returned in recent years, because they have experienced St. John’s as a place that is friendly, inclusive, and hospitable. I am thankful that we’ve been able to work together to make this transformation happen, with God’s help. The work isn’t done, yet, for there’s always more to do to welcome those who are seeking the love of Christ.

When I arrived in Albuquerque, in August, 2007, and took up the work of being the Dean of the Cathedral, you had been through a number of unfortunate, and not very pleasant, “good-byes” with clergy. Such experiences are particularly difficult for congregations, for they introduce an element of uncertainty into the common life, and they cause some to question the worthiness of the ministries in which they are engaged. In addition, a natural response to a traumatic departure is to become more guarded with the next person called to take up the position of Dean. While I’m not so naïve as to think that my time here at St. John’s has been perfect–I have made my share of mistakes and been aware of my shortcomings–it is a source of satisfaction to know that there is sadness on both sides, with me and with you, as I leave to take up a new ministry. That means that we have built relationships with each other and have been bound together in the love of Christ. I give God great thanks for that blessing.

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