Interim Rector’s Annual Report, March 17, 2019

A Sermon by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector

It’s a joy to be here with you at All Saints’ as your Interim Rector. 

Though I have only been here about month, I am settling in, and getting to know you all better.  I was not here in 2018, but I’m providing a report on my time so far, and my report today incorporates elements of my first sermon here on February 10, 2019.

I have some history with All Saints’. In 2005/06 I had the good fortune to be a field ed student here, and have The Rev. Kenneth Schmidt as my field ed supervisor. Kenneth was an excellent mentor to me as he was to so many seminarians, and I was very fond of him. 

I also led a parish retreat up at the Bishop’s Ranch in 2014, about my pilgrimage experience on the Camino de Santiago. And the last time I preached here was Holy Week, 2015, right before I went back to the Camino to complete the last 100 miles.

One of the things the walking the Camino taught me was to keep walking, and that walking solved just about everything.  The Camino taught me that one day at a time is sometimes all you need to do, and that by putting one foot in front of the other, you will arrive at your destination. God is with you every step of the way.  And the journey itself is really the point.

I’ve taken some of my Camino experience into my specialization in Interim Ministry, and I know we can bring it into our Interim time together.

I enjoy doing Interim work because it’s a constant learning experience. And I’m on a bit of a learning curve entering into an Anglo-Catholic parish, but I’m feeling more and more at home here, and I want to thank all of you, and especially our Sacristans and altar party for welcoming me into this beautiful place.

All Saints’ Anglo-Catholic style is distinctive.  But every parish has its own culture and approach to worship, and when I enter into any parish as an Interim, I have to learn how things are done in that particular context. It is part of my Interim role to understand church culture and reflect back to the parish what I see with my “fresh eyes.”

My “fresh eyes” will be joined by your active participation in our Interim process. In the coming months, we’ll reflect on who All Saints was in the past, and who All Saints is today. And, most importantly, who All Saints’ wants to become in the future. Because as Rob Voyle, one of my mentors in Interim ministry says, “the church is going to spend the rest of its life in the future.”

Another important aspect of our work together will be studying our neighborhood, and how we fit into it today, and in the future.  I’ve already met with a small group of our immediate neighbors at their request, to discuss how we as the church can be of service to our block of Waller Street.

In the fullness of time, we’ll form a search committee and construct a parish profile, then ultimately open the search for your next Rector.  But that will not be our focus for the next few months.  We will need some time to settle in and get to know each other first, and do some work of discernment.  The Interim time is a time of discovery, and it’s a pilgrimage of discernment we do together. 

Being an Interim also involves being a loving pastor. I’m a good listener. I want to meet you for coffee, for walks in the park, or whatever works for you. Thank you to those who have already met with me!  I’ve enjoyed our time together.

I’ve quickly learned that the All Saints’ leadership team has been working hard for the last year.  I want to thank our Senior Warden, Jean McMaster, and our Jr. Warden, Larry Rosenfeld, for taking on a very large responsibility and challenge.  The All Saints’ staff, Bill Visscher and Agustin Maes, have also put in extra work this past year to keep All Saints going on a day to day basis.  I’d like to thank them as well.

I also want to thank The Rev. Tom Traylor for his faithful service to All Saints.  He has served as an Associate here for sixteen years, and he truly held the parish in love through a difficult period. 

I am grateful for Tom’s friendship and mentor ship as I’ve been learning the liturgical ropes.  I am thankful that he has stayed on several weeks longer than originally planned after my mother’s death on February 28. We will recognize Tom at the Annual Meeting after Mass.

All Saints has not had an Interim period for 30 years, and many of you have not known any other Rector other than The Rev. Kenneth Schmidt, who was a gifted man, a fine priest, and who was much beloved.

There’s a significant shift in any organization when a leader leaves after 30 years. The significant shift here at All Saints’ became more of a loss because of the level of uncertainty you experienced with the illness and absence of your Rector before his retirement.  

Because of the length of the last pastorate, and the way it ended, our time of discernment will include some more focused reflection on what kind of organizational systems have developed in the parish.  We will do some Appreciative Inquiry, which celebrates what is life-giving, and working well, and we will spend some time assessing how we can become as healthy as possible before entering into a search process for a new Rector.

A healthy parish communicates clearly and well. One of the first things I’ve done as Interim is bring our communication systems up to date. 

Our website and our Facebook page have been updated, and will stay current. An updated web presence helps us be present in the world as it is today. Everyone looking for a church does one thing first:  they look at the church’s website.  It is vitally important that we keep it current and accurate.

In the next few weeks you will be receiving an All Saints’ weekly email newsletter that will provide news, photos, schedules, and an ongoing pastoral letter from the Vestry and me on our journey together. The weekly email newsletter is a powerful communication tool used by many other churches in our diocese. 

This is an important change for All Saints’ on several levels.

As we move forward, we need clear communication channels internally among All Saints’ members, and externally beyond the front gates. The email newsletter is also something we can share with newcomers as an introduction to our community.

Change is challenging for all of us.  For Episcopalians, change can be daunting. Episcopalians place value on tradition, order, and stability.  We tend to look to the past and to our history for comfort, meaning, and authority.  This is true for me as well.

Being grounded solidly in tradition is a good thing, but, at the same time, change is a part of life, and, how we meet it is a sign of our health.  The Good News is, we don’t have to do it alone.  We have each other, and we have Jesus with us, who calls us to newness of life.  That is what the Resurrection is about.  The Holy Spirit is blowing us into a new phase of life as a parish, and, as they say at St. Dorothy’s Rest, we need to keep our sails unfurled.  We will be praying about this regularly as we move further into our Interim time together.

As we move forward, we will probably feel some turbulence along the way.  We’ll probably feel some discomfort, sadness and grief, a sense of awkwardness. There will also be epiphanies, joy, and growth. My hope is that, together, we can experience a renewed sense of spaciousness and freedom. Let’s keep breathing. I like to remember that the Holy Spirit is also known as the Comforter, and she is here with us along our journey, as well as propelling us forward. 

I have a few comments about our readings for the Second Sunday in Lent.  In Genesis, we heard the story of the ancient covenant between Abram and God.  God tells him “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great, and God shows Abram the stars and says, “So shall your descendants be. And he believed the Lord.”  Abram is an example of faith for us in uncertain times. 

Our Gospel this morning talks about Jesus’ concern for the people of Jerusalem, and his desire to protect them under his wings like a brooding hen.  I find both of these stories comforting and challenging because they ask us to allow the living God to be active in our lives rather than over-think everything ourselves. 

On my first Sunday here we had the wonderful story of Jesus saying, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  It remains The Good News for us today: 

We are underway.  God is with us.  There is overwhelming grace up ahead. There will be newness of life, and renewal for All Saints’.

Love and Blessings, Beth+