As I continued my post retirement “friend re-connection journey earlier this month, I had one of those “De je vu all over again,” “yes we have been here before” experiences. On Ash Wednesday, I left New Orleans headed west. I spent several days in Beaumont, Texas where Lynn and I lived for a time while I was rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. While living in Beaumont, we made many friends, (the church had over one thousand members), and maybe an enemy or two. My purpose in going back was to visit some of these old friends (golden friends) and reconnect with a very important part of my life and with some of the people who brought and meaning to life. I ran out of time before I saw all of those friends, but I did visit with many of them. It was exciting to catch up with their lives and to see their children who are now five years older.
Seeing second graders who are now seventh graders and eighth graders who are now freshmen in college and seniors who are now married truly made my head spin. How wonderful and what a blessing to see young people whom I had influenced, grown up and making the world a better place for those around them.
I also worshiped at St. Stephen’s church, where many of my old friends from St. Mark’s are now members and was amazed at their involvement in making their new church a place of welcome and hospitality. The lay preacher, Elizabeth, had been in a Bible Study which I helped lead, the deacon, Pat, was a woman who had worked for me at St. Mark’s and the new senior warden, Melanie, had been a very good friend at St. Mark’s. One of my co-leaders in the Bible Study at St. Mark’s, Kathy, was the Eucharistic Minister that Sunday. “De je vu all over again!” When we leave a town and our friends, we often wonder how things will turn out when we are no longer in a person’s life. It is exciting to see friends who have taken their God given gifts and what little influence I may have had on their lives and done wonders for the Kingdom of God.
One of the joys for a priest is to multiply his or her influence by helping others discern their calling from God, either to ordained or lay ministry. At a party put together by a group of friends there were three people who had spent several months in discernment during my time at St. Mark’s. Two of the three, Pat and Tracie, had become ordained deacons and the third, John, a bi-vocational priest. All three have “day jobs” but give their free time to the church for the building up of the Kingdom of God. We will never know the influence they have had on the people of Beaumont over the past five years, but I can guarantee you that Beaumont and the world are better places because of their life and ministry.
The lesson for me and I hope for you is that God calls each of us to love God and our neighbors and that the influence we have in the name of Christ will continue after we move on in both time and space. Perhaps this is what theologians mean we they talk about “world without end, Amen.”