I’ve never been good at goodbyes. Goodbye seems like one of those words you use when you know you’ll never see the person or thing you’re saying goodbye to ever again in your life. It conjures up feelings that, quite honestly, I’d much prefer to never deal with. Having to say goodbye to someone is extremely difficult, especially when that person has helped you through some very difficult times.
Today at church was filled with goodbyes as our rector, Randy Green, was leaving and heading into his retirement to Boone, North Carolina. Randy, as some of you know, is the only rector I’ve known since starting to worship at Saint Paul’s. After a time of not going to church due to experiencing what one would describe as a “dark night of the soul,” I decided to try out the Episcopal Church. Having been reared as a Baptist, but studying liturgy in college and being what some would refer to as an extreme Anglophile, I was drawn to the way in which the Episcopal Church worshipped. Ironically, my first introductions to Saint Paul’s were also the beginnings of Randys ministry there. Through the last three years I have seen ups and downs as well as twists and turns that have taken me by surprise. Randy has been there through all of them, supporting me with his friendship and prayers, his guidance and his love. He has helped me in numerous ways, helping me to grow closer to God after taking some time to reevaluate what my relationship to God is and was. So to say goodbye to him and his wife, Nancy, was going to be incredibly hard. As I sat listening to his last sermon, I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for his leadership and his support he has shown to me, as well as to my church as a whole.
I decided this week that I would refuse to say goodbye. Why, you might ask? To be honest, I don’t really believe this is goodbye. While I realize that Randy and Nancy will be leaving to start a new chapter of their lives, I believe that their friendship and love for all of us at Saint Paul’s transcends the boundaries of distance, just as I believe that the friendship of love of the church for them transcends those same boundaries. Rather, I choose to believe that the same friendship still exists, only there are a few more miles between us. With such things as email, facebook, phones, texts… I believe it definitely makes it easier to keep in contact with those we love.
So today, instead of feeling like we are at a journeys end, I feel more like it’s just a stop along the way to rest while we are on an even greater journey together. I do hope both Randy and Nancy know how much love and respect I have for them as friends, as well as in their roles within the church.
I think it would be appropriate to end this little homage to Randy and Nancy with the Prayer of Thanksgiving we used today at the end of our service. “Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the holy food of the Body and Blood of your Son, and for uniting us through him in the fellowship of your Holy Spirit. We thank you for raising up among us faithful servants of your Word and Sacraments. We thank you especially for the work of Fr. Randy among us, and the presence of his wife Nancy here. Grant that both they and we may serve you in the days ahead, and always rejoice in your glory, and come at length into your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”