I am writing to you with an invitation to reflect, and with a bit of reflection of my own. A few weeks ago, our vestry warden Nancy Sung reminded me that we'd just passed the one-year anniversary of my installation as rector. That reminder prompted me to go back and read through the liturgy from that night. Perhaps my favorite part of the service was the Symbols of the Pastoral Office, in which members of the congregation gave me symbolic gifts and charged me to fulfill my role as pastor of this church. Here's that part of the liturgy:
The Bible is presented.
Amy, preach the Word at all times, and let our worship and our life together manifest the grace and truth of this Book. Amen.
Bread and wine are presented.
Amy, preside in the breaking of the bread and the blessing of the cup, and lead us in our prayers and praises. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer is presented.
Amy, be a woman of prayer, and use this book to build us up as living stones of a holy temple. Amen.
The Catechism is presented.
Amy, be a teacher of the Faith, making disciples who make disciples. Amen.
Keys to the facilities [note: van keys!] used by the Congregation for its life and mission are presented.
Amy, receive these keys, and let the doors of this place be open to all, that many would come to know the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Amen.
An assortment of flowers is presented.
Amy, be a cultivator of beauty, and guide us to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Amen.
The Bishop presents a vessel of water.
Amy, receive this water and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in obedience to our Lord. Amen.
After all symbols are presented, the Bishop concludes
Amy, let all these symbols be signs of the ministry which is the Lord’s and ours in this place. Amen.
The new Rector may kneel in the midst of the church and pray
O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully preach the Gospel and administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; in worship, increase my zeal for godly preparation; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was good to be reminded of that night, the prayers prayed together, and the promises I made to God and to all of you. I've been reflecting on how God has been forming me as a rector over the past year: how he's deepened and strengthened me, and what weaknesses and limits and vulnerabilities he's revealed. You are a kind and patient congregation as I grow into this call!
One of my dearest companions (besides Katie, and before her, Liz) in pastoral ministry has been Eugene Peterson. Quite simply, Eugene is the kind of pastor I want to be when I grow up, and his writings and example are a constant source of strength. This recent article by a friend captures his pastoral vision, which I hope to learn how to embody more and more in the coming years, however imperfectly.
It was good to reflect on my first year as rector. And it was also good to reflect on our first year together as rector and congregation. I'd like to invite you now to join me in this reflection.
Last summer, we launched an annual time of reflection for our church. This reflection is loosely based on the Ignatian Examen, a prayer practice developed by Saint Ignatius as a way to notice God’s presence and discern his direction in our lives. (I like this article for explaining the Examen.) Our Incarnation Annual Reflection is a sort of church-based Examen, designed to help us to reflect on our common life and worship at Incarnation each year.
You can read more about the annual reflection here, and find links to complete the reflection either online or by paper. I believe taking this time to pause, remember, pray, and hope each year is vital to our church's ability to discern God's leading. Your responses, if you choose to share them, help me stay attentive to how God is moving among us, especially in the ordinary and quiet ways that might escape my notice on a busy Sunday morning.
I hope this reflection is refreshing, not burdensome, and an aid to your seeking and finding God's presence in all aspects of your life. Before you begin, you may want to pray for illumination. These words from the new rector's prayer above are perfectly fitting: "Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do." Or as Weber taught us on Sunday, we can pray for illumination in the pattern of Psalm 81: Restart - Remember - Refresh.
Want to get your feet wet on a shorter, quicker reflection before taking the plunge into the big one? Take this quick survey about our worship location. :) Thank you!
I say it all the time, but that's because it's true — it is SUCH a gift to be a pastor in a community of such thoughtful, wise, discerning, wrestling, kingdom-minded, neighbor-loving people. Thank you for a wonderful first year as rector. I look forward to many, many more together!