Archive - Oct 27, 2007

"Set us free to serve You"

The Celebration of New Ministry, originally uploaded by Aldon.

It was the fall of 1980. I had left college and moved to New York with a few of my friends from school. We were all artists, painters, photographers, sculptures, and writers. I had come to New York to write poetry. I would support myself writing computer programs. I searched out a community of believers to become part of and started attending Grace Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Every Wednesday evening, many of us young professionals would gather for a Eucharist and then break into prayer groups. We would gather together, share stories of our work lives, our concerns and pray for one another. It was a place of stability for many of us in our turbulent years in a turbulent city.

It shaped all of us, and many of my friends went on to become priests and missionaries after following fairly serpentine paths. Today, these paths crossed once again. One of the women I met back in 1980 was Kate Heichler. We traveled in the same circles, prayer groups, trips to Ocean Grove in the summer and weekend retreats at Camp Incarnation in the springs and fall.

I moved to Connecticut, and slowly lost touch with many of my old friends from Grace Church. In 1999, I started dating Kim and in September, her mother ended her battle with cancer and went to be with God. Kim was attending a small church in her home town of Bethany Connecticut. The evening Kim’s mom died, the rector of the church came and sat with us. That whole time is a bit of a blur, but figuratively, if not literally, Peter brought donuts. He sat with us and provided comfort.

Sunday morning, Kim and I went to Christ Church, Bethany, were Peter was the Rector. The news had spread through the congregation about Kim’s mother’s death. Kim’s mother was a well beloved teacher and member of the community, and many people had prayed long and hard for her. Everyone came up to comfort Kim and offer words of condolence.

It was the first Sunday of September, and Peter was introducing a new seminarian that Sunday. Her name was Kate Heichler, the same Kate I had gone to Grace Church with nearly two decades earlier. We looked at each other and both asked, what are you doing here?

Kim and I got married and we settled at my old house in Stamford. Christ Church flourished with Peter as the Rector and Kate as seminarian, and later as an assistant. Then, earlier this year, Kate accepted the calling to become Priest in Charge at Trinity Emmanuel Church in Stamford.

Trinity Emmanuel is a small church in North Stamford. I had attended it briefly when I first moved to Connecticut. Later, when a friend of mine was fighting cancer, Kim and I attended Trinity Emmanuel to be with him the worst part of his struggles.

Now, Kate was the Priest in Charge. Kim and I returned to Trinity Emmanuel during the summer. We prayed for the church and continue to pray for it. As our own lives continued to become more complicated, between Kim’s Lyme disease and our difficult finances, we moved to Woodbridge, the next town over from Bethany and started attending Christ Church, Bethany.

Members of Trinity Emmanuel came to our house to help us move, as well as prayed for us in our struggles.

This morning, I returned to Trinity Emmanuel to celebrate the new ministry of Kate and Trinity Emmanuel. Peter provided the sermon. Friends from Grace Church in Manhattan were there, as were friends from other churches in the Stamford Deanery.

The band for Christ Church, Bethany provided most of the music, and during the service, members of the congregation presented Kate with a bowl of guitar picks say, “Kate, receive these guitar picks, which you so liberally scatter, and be among us as one who teaches us a new song in worship.”

It was a wonderful service. Not only was a great celebration of the new ministry of Kate and Trinity Emmanuel, but it was also first such ceremony that The Right Reverend Doctor Laura Ahrens celebrated as Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut.

For me, the words that summed up the service were the refrain from the Litany of Prayers for Ministry, “Set us free to serve You”.

As I thought about all the things that have happened in my life since those days at Grace Church, as well as all the things that have happened in Kate’s life and the lives of some many of my friends, the idea of being liberated to serve God ties it together very nicely.

So, my prayers are with Kate, with the congregation of Trinity Emmanuel, and with all of us that needs God’s grace to set us free to serve Him.

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