Preached at All Saints, King City, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, on the Third Sunday of Easter, 1 May, 2022.
Well it’s time to say goodbye and time to say thank you. Thank you for the privilege of being your priest for almost two years. It was a long interim by normal standards, but these last two years haven’t been normal times, have they?
I’m grateful to all of you for your kindness and hard work in keeping the church going through Covid. When I came in on Thursday and saw so many busy people setting up for the rummage sale, I realized how much pent up energy and muscle memory has been there all through these last pandemic years, just waiting to be unleashed as we return to normal, whatever normal will look like in the years ahead.
Speaking of the pandemic, I’m grateful for those of you who gritted your teeth and learned to Zoom and who proved them wrong about old dogs and boomers not learning new tricks. I’m enormously appreciative of the faithful who gathered to pray online, or who returned to the pews to pray with masks and, to be honest, some nervousness. I’m thankful for those of you who continued to faithfully support the church in all the months when we couldn’t (and still don’t!) pass the collection plate. For all of you who joined the PAR program, thank you, and for those of you who haven’t yet, there’s still time (I can’t resist one last stewardship appeal!).
So today’s very short homily is built around the idea of thankfulness. In my life I’ve worked in academia and in the corporate sector, in the military, and in the church, and I’ve learned that the best leaders are the ones who say thank you with sincerity and with frequency. Being thanked is how people know that they are members of a team and not just resources to be exploited.
That being said, the church is slightly different. Clergy aren’t leaders in the secular sense, though leadership is part of the job, to be sure. I’ve always believed that the clergy’s role is primarily to point to Christ and to remind congregations that they are God’s people, living in the kingdom of God and living out kingdom values. In the church, all thankfulness is ultimately directed to God, to whom, as our eucharistic prayers remind us, “it is right to give our thanks and praise”.
God gave us God’s Son to remind us that we loved, forgiven, and given new life. As followers of Jesus, we are remade as God’s people, called as light and hope for the world around us. All Saints has been faithful to that call since 1857. The saints have gathered here in King through good times and bad, through wars and depression and multiple (!) pandemics. Thanks and praise has been offered through times of hope when a new church was built, and thanks and praise continued as the new church attracted fewer and fewer people as the culture seemed to turn away from God. Since 1857 priests have come and gone, some more successful than others, but God was always here, the love of Jesus always called you forward, and the Holy Spirit always empowered the saints.
So today I thank God for you, the people of All Saints, the latest of the generations to whom God has been faithful to. I’m thankful that God has given you a talented and dynamic new priest whose vision and hopefulness will inspire you. I’m thankful that God has blessed you with financial resources that many churches lack, and I’m sure you’ll use them well. I’m thankful that God has given you the resilience and creativity to adapt to new ways of doing and being church. You will need that creativity in the years to come. Finally I’m thankful to God for bringing us fellow disciples who have come to Canada from countries scarcely known when this church began in 1857. As we saw so wonderfully on Easter Sunday, the future of the Anglican church is global, and I encourage you to embrace more refugees, more new Canadians, and more diversity.
Finally, dear saints, I’m thankful that Joy and I have been part of your story. We’re thankful for your warm welcome, we leave a part of our hearts with you, and we assure you of our prayers for the bright future that certainly awaits you.