June 7, 2020 – Changes
Normally this time of year is full of celebrations of graduations from elementary school, high school, universities and other transitions. I have often preached about how exciting these milestones moments are for their families. Under ordinary circumstances, we acknowledge of the value of endings and beginnings and there is often great excitement for the next stage in life. But with this year’s unusual events of the pandemic and now recently the protests for racial equality and general civil unrest, these endings and beginnings have taken on a very different appearance. Anxieties and fears have increased, and we are now more on edge than ever before. It seems the “valley of loss” of which I preached about several weeks ago and the challenge of the “second mountain” has become even more pertinent than ever before.
I remind us all about the stages of grieving 1) denial, 2 anger), 3) bargaining, 4) depression and 5) acceptance. We also need to be honest with ourselves about our emotions on which one of these stages we are going through realizing that the process of grieving is not a linear process. We will cycle through these stages at different stages reacting to external events and internal emotions. These stages are descriptive not proscriptive insofar as they outline the stages and a linear process. In these are strange and difficult times, we need to be gentle with ourselves and yes be gentle with others. We need to first seek to understand than to be understood. We need to take the time to reflect on the complexity of our current reality as a community, as a nation and as a church.
Celebration is still a healthy part of lives and we still need to acknowledge the transitions albeit in very different forms. They can be still very meaningful and, in some ways, even more memorable than the tradition forms. As Henri Nouwen says of celebration:
“Celebration is not just a way to make people feel good for a while; it is the way in which faith in the God of life is lived out, through both laughter and tears. Thus, celebration goes beyond ritual, custom, and tradition. It is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid current of joy.”
For example, on May 27th, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of my ministerial priesthood. While some members of staff joined me for the celebration of Mass along with my brother and his family, it was a lonely experience. After 20 years of service, most of them here, I was somewhat saddened! But after Mass the community surprised me with a drive-by parade! Wow! For over an hour, I stood greeting people from a distance as they drove. It was so wonderful to see everyone again and that parade was a memory I will never forget!! Thank you all.
So, it is still important to celebrate these transitions and acknowledge them. With that in mind, I want to acknowledge several changes in the Holy Spirit Church staff over these last few months in addition to the community getting a new Pastor.
Penny Warne announced last year that she would be retiring on June 30, 2020. In light of Covid-19, Penny has agreed to stay through September to help with the pastor transition as well as training a new Parish Administrator. Every knows how important Penny has been to the parish and to me personally as pastor. We have worked side by side for over 16 years and she has been the person who got things done in the background. She has worked tirelessly to make the culture of our parish to be a hospitable place where all people feel called to utilize their gifts for the good of the whole community. Without her, we would not be anywhere near where we are as a community. I will miss her dearly as I move to another parish and Holy Spirit Parish will miss her dedication and commitment to this community and the driving desire that all are called to a vocation of prayer and service.
Katie Metzger who has been with Holy Spirit staff for over 10 years decided to take the Voluntary Retirement package that was offered by the Diocese of San Jose during the pandemic crisis. She has helped many of our ministries work seamlessly and effectively by her dedication to efficient administration. She is spending much time with her grandsons and will remain a part of our community. She and her husband Chris will remain actively involved in different ministries as they have for many years.
Bob Fields will be leaving the Holy Spirit community to be near his daughter in Ft. Bragg on the Mendocino coast. This has long been a dream of Bob’s. Bob has been a backbone of many of our social ministries from the mission trips to Nicaragua to our ministry to the homeless and Village House. His humble service and gentle presence to those most struggling in life has been truly a blessing to the whole community. We will miss his ubiquitous presence to those in need and his disarming humor to remind us of our common human dignity. Please join us to thank Bob for all that he has done in his ministry and friendship. If you want to reach Bob, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As much as I appreciate all the notes of gratitude to me for my ministry please know I never do this ministry alone and if you have time to write a brief note to some of our other departing staff I would deeply appreciate it. We have been one great team! Thank you everyone.