Monday, August 21, 2006

Missing an old friend

Laura and I are back from a couple of weeks' vacation and after two days in the office, I am wondering where the refreshment and rest I felt take root in me these past weeks has gone to!

It was a good time away. We had time to rest and to play, with trips to NJ and NY to visit friends...And a visit from some pals from Virginia. I was blessed to see four out of five godchildren. A rare occurrence in our busy lives, of late. So, we will have to figure out a way to get up to RI to see the fifth (first in the series) to make it a perfect year. Erin, I hope to be in touch soon!

One sad point was that I got word last week of the death of the bishop who ordained me to the priesthood. Bp. Thompson was the diocesan of Southern Ohio at the time, and when I started "the process" he was only just newly minted as bishop coadjutor. As wet behind the ears as I was in seeking this new way of being in the Church, he was just as self-admittedly green around the edges. I had the great blessing of watching him grow into his role, with all the bumps and bruises along the way. He was a great example in how to be, and not be, a pastor and friend AND locus of power to a community--and to me. Sometimes, he did awesome things for me--sending me to South Dakota, giving me the monetary support to complete my CPE work in Brooklyn and enabling me to stay in NYC when I lacked funds. He ordained me deacon and priest, and was present to the struggles and bumps that we hit, together, along the way.

The Diocese of Southern Ohio was not really into ordaining young people when I went through, and to be honest, I was not the most mature of human beings at the time. I was 22, and had only just graduated from Kenyon. I had grown up in academic settings and was truly not prepared for the shark pond of diocesan politics. One of my three favorite stories (all of which are recounted today for your enjoyment) of +Herb was actually after I had been rejected for postulancy by the Bishop's advisory committee. I went to his offices for an "exit interview" that turned into a three hour conversation with him about ministry, life and the call to be a priest. At the end of that time, he stood up, shook my hand to said, "I am going to take a chance on you, you are going to take a chance on me. God is calling you to be a priest. Now, it is up to us to figure out how." His next official words to me came about a year later when I was a junior in seminary: "How to you like seminary? Are you getting a lot out of it" I stammered a reply and gushed a bit. "Great, then don't mess it up!" Harsh words? No, an invitation from a senior to a kid to realize that this was a gift and not a privilege. I keep striving to learn that lesson day after day.

On the day I was ordained, after a week of drama all its own, Bp. Thompson prayed with me and my family before the service. I have never felt such "God-energy" in a single moment in that he was both humble and proud at the same time. Shared history and all the bumps and bruises and joys and laughter came back in a moment, were celebrated and then were directed to the glory of God. After the service, he knelt before me and asked my blessing. The first blessing I gave by laying on of hands was onto his forehead. I won't forget that moment.

Finally, and humorously, is my favorite story and lesson about life I learned from +Herb. At a retreat for the newly ordained, he gave a talk about intimacy and its importance in the life of the ordained. He talked about how important it was to be known to as many people as possible by your first name. One of the ordinands saw an opening and asked, "So, what to we call you?"

He actually stammered for a moment...And said "Bishop Thompson." That said it all, humility, integrity, pride and deep--deep awareness of his role and responsibility. I only called him Herb once, when I left his service and his diocese and thanked him for his leadership. After that, and for always, he is "Bishop Thompson."

Let light perpetual shine upon him, dear Lord. Heaven has gained a passionate and joyful servant of the living Son.

No comments:

Post a Comment